Like most Democrats, I was obviously disheartened watching election results unfold Tuesday evening. Even though I knew it was coming, it still hurt to read words like “Senator-elect Rand Paul,” and to watch with frustration and helplessness the almost uniformly negative outcomes in my home state of Missouri.
But when I glanced at the New York Times’ electoral map Wednesday morning, I was still somewhat surprised. Though Democrats took heavy losses in the House, the number of Republican Senate seats hung at 46. I searched the map for surprises. Sure enough, Nevada, defying all predictions, was solidly blue. Colorado, in the past 24 hours, has been called for the Democrat and Christine O’Donnell — surprising no one — lost a seat that, until the primaries, was supposed to have been a shoo-in for Republicans.
So, though Democrats may not have been the winners last night, allow me to say: I’d like to thank the Tea Party. If it weren’t for their rabid turnout at midterm primaries, we could be facing a far darker future than we are now. Thank you, tea partiers of Delaware, for nominating a woman who opposed masturbation and didn’t know what was in the First Amendment. Thank you, tea partiers of Colorado, for championing a man with the foreign policy genius to desire an end state in Afghanistan “at least as safe” as the terrorist spawning grounds of Yemen or Somalia. Thank you, tea partiers of Nevada, for putting forth a candidate who claimed Shariah law ruled Dearborn, Mich., and a nonexistent city in Texas, and voted against fluoridating drinking water. And tea partiers of New York, a final shout-out for nominating a blatant homophobe, who had to be held back from beating down a reporter, as your gubernatorial candidate.
For Democrats, this easily could have gone worse. Yes, we lost 60 seats in the House, but if one looks closer, it was by no means a repudiation of progressivism. Republican Speaker-to-be John Boehner alleges that “the American people have sent an unmistakable message: Change course.” But this isn’t the case at all.
This election was by no means an earthshaking victory for Republicans. If anything, the elections were a sign that a populace frustrated with the current administration sought to cast a protest vote. Exit polls reveal, as polls have been showing for the past year, that despite how few people approve of Democrats, even fewer approve of Republicans.
What’s more, Democratic losses were heaviest among the conservative Blue Dog caucus, which lost over half its membership. Moving along the spectrum, the centrist New Democrats lost nearly 40 percent of their membership. The Progressive caucus, on the other hand, lies in stark contrast to these two, having lost a mere 5 percent of its members. If Boehner’s allegation of America’s message — “change course” — has any truth to it, the fate of the Blue Dogs juxtaposed with those of the Progressives spell it out: “Maverick” Democrats who try to play off both parties, who vote by what they think will promote their re-election and who jam up important legislation will lose. Liberal Democrats who fight for their constituents, who deliver on electoral promises and who vote on principle rather than polls will win.
Democrats, take heart. We are no strangers to being a legislative minority, and still have wounds from being walked all over during the Bush years. But now is not the time to become the insane and paranoid minority our opponents were. Now is the time to demand accountability. Now is the time to push for fairness and civility while making our voices heard. We must remember that the battle is not over. We must let it be known, as FDR put it, that “We have only just begun to fight.”
Jack Newsham is a freshman in Morse College.