I have just discovered that the Democrats have taken control of the House of Representatives for the first time since 1994. Democrats have so far picked up three seats in the U.S. Senate and held on to the two seats that they were in danger of losing. Though ecstatic, I offer some sober reflections on today’s events.
First, students across the country, and particularly at Yale, deserve tremendous credit for the work they did in this election cycle. SNAP PAC, a political action committee formed by a group of Yale students, raised enough money to pay more than 30 students for their work on behalf of progressive candidates in key races around the country, including those of Sherrod Brown in Ohio, Chris Murphy in Connecticut and Patricia Madrid in New Mexico. Their work deserves tremendous praise for its vision, organization and discipline in getting out the vote, and Chris Murphy’s enormous congressional victory in Connecticut is a testament to that.
Second, and most importantly, today’s Democratic victory represents one thing above all else: a victory for sanity. In the last six years, but particularly in the last four, a group of right-wing ideologues hijacked the country and pushed through a remarkable array of devastating policies, including an ideologically-motivated war in Iraq, tax cuts even in the face of enormous deficits, an energy policy involving massive subsidies to already flourishing oil companies, and an attempt to gut Social Security, the most effective social safety-net policy in history. None of these actions — not a single one — made any sense. In the wake of Terri Schiavo, Social Security and Hurricane Katrina, not to mention Jack Abramoff and Mark Foley, the house of cards finally collapsed, and the country was able to see the Republican Party for what it has become: a cynical group of neoconservative ideologues who have mortgaged the country’s future for the sake of political power. The scandals that have plagued the Republican Congress have become too numerous to count. Whether it is Tom Delay’s perversion of the law in Texas to gain a few Congressional seats or Duke Cunningham’s $2.5 million in bribes, a line has been crossed and Americans have demonstrated that they will no longer tolerate it. Above all else, the best news from tonight is that real progressive candidates, like Sherrod Brown in Ohio, won with a message of economic populism that has been so sorely missing from our political discourse in recent years.
Third, and equally importantly, the American people have demanded accountability. The abominable approval ratings that Congress has received in recent months are due in large part to their absolute refusal to ask any questions of the executive, and thus abdicating their responsibility as an equal branch of government to oversee the actions of the president. “Stay the course” in Iraq has failed miserably, and Congress has done nothing to remedy the situation. With nearly 3,000 Americans dead, more than 10,000 injured and uncountable numbers of Iraqi dead, and with chaos reigning throughout that country, Americans have begun to ask why we are there and what we hope to accomplish. The administration has offered no answers, and Congress has failed to demand them. In this climate, Americans have decided that they have a right to know how we got into this war in the first place and what it is we hoped to accomplish. If Democrats will do one thing in the next two years, it will be to demand accountability from the Bush administration. This, I believe, is a victory for democracy in America, one that is absolutely needed.
Democrats will take a number of important steps in the next few weeks, including raising the appallingly low minimum wage, fixing the inexplicable loopholes in Medicare Part D and investigating the intelligence failures that got us into Iraq. Americans of all stripes should support these measures. One-party rule has proved itself to be cancerous to our democracy. I look forward to a Democratic Congress that will demand accountability from the administration for the state of our nation.
I sincerely believe that today’s election represents a win for sanity, a win for accountability, and a win for America, no matter what party you support.
Ted Fertik is a senior in Trumbull College.