Next Tuesday’s election could be the most important of our lifetimes.
If the Republicans manage to take control of the Senate and hang on to control of the House, it will mark the first time since 1953 that a Republican president has at least two years at the helm of an undivided government. Trent Lott will take over as Senate majority leader and grant George Bush the opportunity to railroad every part of his conservative agenda through Congress. Republicans will be able to pack the federal judiciary with dozens of young, reactionary Clarence Thomases, who will still be sitting on the bench handing down decisions when we’re 50. We’re talking about the potential to fundamentally change this country in ways that can’t be undone for a generation.
We’ve already had a preview of what politics will be like under an undivided Republican government. During the first four months of Bush’s presidency, before Sen. Jim Jeffords’ fortunate defection, the Republican Congress passed an egregious 10-year tax cut benefiting our nation’s wealthiest citizens at the expense of fiscal responsibility. We saw a gag order placed on foreign family-planning programs, a rollback of workplace-safety and environmental regulations, and the appointment of a polarizing extremist as our attorney general.
GOP strategists are salivating over the prospect of one-party rule. Lott has promised that if his party wins control of the Senate, “We will come out of the gates next year fast.” Republicans will try to make Bush’s 10-year tax cuts permanent, effectively crippling government for years. Late-term abortions will come under attack, tort reform will likely move to the top of the agenda, and even the White House’s pet project of social security privatization, tabled after the market downturn, could make a comeback. Worse yet, Republicans will try to pass sham versions of democratic legislation, like a phony prescription drug plan, that will stymie any chances of real reform.
Of course, the most dangerous threat of all is what a Republican Senate could do to the federal courts. A decade’s worth of partisan bickering over Clinton’s — and now Bush’s — judicial nominees has left gaping holes on the federal bench that Bush has been waiting to fill. Now, with a Senate willing to rubber-stamp his nominees, the president will be able to bequeath to our generation a lasting legacy of conservative judges. Democrats may be able to use their filibuster power to stop the most obnoxious of the Bush nominees, but without control of the judiciary committee, they’ll have a hard time preventing Bush from fundamentally altering the ideological character of the federal courts. These are the judges who will decide the future of abortion rights, gay rights and civil liberties in America. At stake are very important questions like whether my gay friends will be able to raise families in this country. This stuff matters.
Fortunately, we have the opportunity to do something. The front line of this year’s battle for control of the Senate is only three hours away in New Hampshire, where Democratic Gov. Jeanne Shaheen is taking on Republican Rep. John Sununu in a race that pollsters are saying is too close to call. Given how things are shaping up for Democratic candidates in other tight races around the country, it’s looking more and more like the New Hampshire contest could decide which party has control of the Senate in January. It’s therefore absolutely imperative that we do everything we can to ensure that Shaheen wins her race.
My roommates and I will be taking off classes next Tuesday to drive up to New Hampshire to help out the Democratic Party. We’ll be going door-to-door, bringing voters to the polls. If you’re a liberal — or even an independent — who fears what Republicans will be able to do under one-party rule, you should come with us.
Had there been 100 more students like us helping to bring voters to the polls in Florida in 2000, it might have made the difference in who our president is today. I don’t know whether we can make the difference in New Hampshire in 2002, but I do know that we can’t sit on our hands when so much is at stake.
Joshua Foer is a junior in Trumbull College.