Season's Change

I awoke this morning to the pattering of a soft November rain. Though I am not usually a morning person, I don’t mind saying that I sprang out of bed today with more enthusiasm than I have in a long time, and with good reason. Last night’s preliminary election results made it clear that there would be much to feel joy about this day, and I was not disappointed by that prediction.

I deliberately avoided all news sources for most of yesterday, knowing that until the polls closed, there would be nothing but a flood of speculation and meaningless guessing games. I had no desire to expose myself to that; if the news was good, it would only instill in me the dread that my hope would later be dashed, and if it was bad, it would needlessly upset me in advance. I did not check the news until I got home from work yesterday evening, and at first, I did so with a sense of dread. Progressives in America have had their hopes dashed too many times in the last few years to be optimistic, despite polls showing the Democrats with a strong lead in the runup to Election Day. I was tentatively hopeful, it’s true, but polls have been wrong before, and my hope was tempered with a strong desire to take nothing for granted.

But as the polls closed, the good news started to pour in, and as the night rolled on, it just kept coming. As the votes tallied up, Republican incumbents were falling like scythed wheat in district after district. On every level of government, Democratic candidates were trouncing their opponents all along the eastern seaboard, and even in hotly disputed races in what should have been safe Republican territory, conservative incumbents were unable to pull away from their challengers. By the end of the night, Democratic control of the House of Representatives was a foregone conclusion; but despite several tremendous and encouraging victories, control of the Senate was still very much up in the air. Four Republican senators had fallen, and the Democratic challenger in Tennessee had been defeated. The unfolding races in Montana and Virginia would decide which party would control the upper chamber, and the Democrats could still win, but only if they took both races in historically deeply conservative states.

But Senate control is uncertain no longer. By lunchtime today, the thing I had scarcely dared to hope had come true. Fox News and the AP were calling Montana for the Democrat Jon Tester. Virginia was even more of a nail-biter, but by afternoon, James Webb was ahead of George Allen by 7,000 votes with 99.8% of the state’s precincts reporting. And as if a floodgate had been opened, at the same time the announcement went out over the radio that Donald Rumsfeld, Bush’s Secretary of Defense and architect of the epically botched Iraq war, was resigning, as if he too had somehow become a casualty of this election.

Here are some of the more notable victories of last night:

  • In the Florida senatorial race, the odious Katherine Harris, who called separation of church and state “a lie” and said that electing any non-Christian would be “legislating sin”, went down to crushing defeat at the hands of Democrat Bill Nelson. The fact that she squandered her own inherited fortune in the process only makes the victory sweeter.
  • In Pennsylvania, the repugnant sexually obsessed fundamentalist and homophobic bigot Rick Santorum was decisively trounced by state treasurer Bob Casey, a conservative Democrat who nevertheless outshines Santorum by a wide margin.
  • In Missouri, the anti-choice, anti-medical-research Senator Jim Talent was defeated by state auditor Claire McCaskill with, perhaps, some help from a campaign ad featuring Michael J. Fox that graphically shows the effect of Parkinson’s disease.
  • In Montana, Senator Conrad Burns, a close friend to convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff who once warned us to beware of Muslims who “drive taxicabs in the daytime and kill at night”, lost his seat to Jon Tester, president of the state senate and still part-time worker on his family’s organic farm.
  • In Ohio, the corrupt Republican machine that has worked hard to turn conservative evangelical churches into Republican foot soldiers was crushed across the state. Senator Mike DeWine was unseated by Democratic challenger Sherrod Brown, while gubernatorial candidate Ken Blackwell, who worked tirelessly to disenfranchise progressives in his previous role as secretary of state, lost to Ted Strickland. Ohio Democrats also won three congressional districts across the state.
  • In Indiana’s 8th Congressional district, the brazen theocrat John Hostettler (sponsor of the overtly anti-constitutional Public Expression of Religion Act about which I have written previously) was soundly defeated by Vanderburgh County sheriff Brad Ellsworth.
  • In Texas’ 22nd district, the seat of the disgraced and indicted Tom DeLay was won by Democrat Nick Lampson.
  • In Pennsylvania’s 7th district, Representative Curt Weldon, already under FBI investigation as an alleged part of a bribery and influence-peddling scheme, was swept out by retired Navy Vice Admiral Joseph Sestak.
  • In California’s 11th district, the rabid anti-environmentalist Richard Pombo, who as chair of the House Resources Committee pushed hard for drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge and sought to weaken the Endangered Species Act at every turn, was overthrown by renewable energy expert Jerry McNerney with help from the Sierra Club and other environmental organizations.

There are far more Democratic wins as well, more than I can list here. Democrats made gains at state and local levels across the country, and now hold a decisive majority of both governorships and state legislatures. When considered as a whole, the results of this midterm election cannot be viewed as anything other than a stunning repudiation of the Republican agenda.

I have a few words to say to both sides. First, to the losers of this election – the religious right theocrats, the pompous pundits bloated on their own sense of self-importance, the racists, the hatemongers, the fearmongers, the corrupt, the self-interested, and the liars both professional and pathological. To these people, I have only this to say: Stew in your defeat. Sputter and rage and gnash your teeth. You now know how real Americans have felt these past six years watching you drag our country down and make a mockery of everything it stands for. I promise you that it will not be the last time you feel this way.

Our great president Abraham Lincoln, who would have totally repudiated you and all you stand for despite the fact that you nominally share a party with him, famously said, “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” And last night has proven these words true. For a short time you were able to govern by appealing to all that is worst in people to pull together a razor-thin majority – but Americans are a basically decent and intelligent people, and they have come around at last and rejected the politics of hate and fear you promote. I would not ordinarily gloat like this, but this comeuppance is far too long overdue and far too richly deserved not to.

Second, to my fellow progressives: I am overjoyed and prouder than I can say of all of you. I am grateful for the privilege to have taken a small part in the hard work we have put in to get to this point. But we must remember that the job is not yet done. Despite our new majority, we are still embroiled in a bloody and unwinnable misadventure in Iraq; we still have a bleeding economy and a massive deficit; we still lack adequate protection for the rights of gay people and other minorities; and we still have a president who thinks himself above the law. Even in spite of our tremendous success, there are still many vile and abhorrent specimens of Republican from safe red districts that survived, and that will impede any effort to bring George W. Bush to account for his misdeeds. And the Democrats themselves are hardly perfect; it will still take much arm-twisting and compromise to unite them all into a truly progressive governing coalition. All of these things were true before the election, and none of them has changed. What has changed is that now we have the power to do something about them.

Make no mistake, this is an overwhelming victory, and we should treat it as such and celebrate it as it deserves to be celebrated. The United States of America has been under dark clouds for the past several years, and at long last, those clouds have parted and a shaft of daylight has broken through. But once the euphoria has faded and we look forward to the challenges that await us, the truly hard work will begin. With this week’s victories, we have derailed the Republican agenda and bought ourselves two years to define what we stand for and to develop our political infrastructure. Now we have to make good use of them.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Montu

    Haha!! I feel just as happy as you do Adam, and CNN is saying that the Democrates have taken the Senate as well (with slight reservation): http://www.cnn.com/2006/POLITICS/11/08/election.main/index.html
    This is an obvious call for change, but I’m slightly worried that the Dem’s wont do everything that we want them to do. But this is definitly a step in the right direction. A toast to all of us, cheers!!

  • valhar2000

    As some bloggers have said, the poor general performance of the democratic party in the past few years (and by this I mean its inability to criticize and obstruct the excesses of the current administration) suggests that the hard-won majority that is now enjoyed will not be put to good use in undoing the damage done by George Bush and his cronies, and pushing back the agenda of the religious right. I myself am not sanguine, but we shall see.

  • http://secularplanet.blogspot.com Secular Planet

    As a Floridian, I am very pleased that Katherine Harris was sounded defeated 60% to 38%. As a resident of Clay County, I am very ashamed that she won in this county with exactly the same numbers reversed, the highest total in the state and only one of a few which she won at all. I apparently live in the most Republican county in Florida, which is a red state. Of course, I already knew that, but c’mon…

  • Alex Weaver

    I’m (somewhat slowly) drafting an open letter to the new Democratic congress. I’ve already selected a closing: “What this election shows is that the American people, at long last, have recognized the vampire in their midst. We are counting on you to drive the stake.”

    I’ve heard some speculation that, as the investigations into the Bush administration’s abuses that the new Congress will launch uncover the true depth of their incompetence and inhumanity, it might be very feasible to get enough Republicans in the Senate to vote to convict him in the impeachment that seems inevitable, and it seems to me that with his belief that he is above the law and divinely appointed to lead the nation, and his habit of surrounding himself with yes-men, he, unlike Nixon, might very well stick it out. I sincerely hope this happens, because actually removing him and his henchmen from office in disgrace after a fair trial would probably go a long way toward restoring the rest of the world’s faith in America and burying the vile, hateful, and self-destructive ideologies of the religious right. How likely do you suppose that 2/3 majority is?

  • Chris

    You would have to convince the party that they will lose even worse in ’08 if they don’t throw Bush to the wolves. A threat to their personal power is the only thing that will motivate them. The modern Republican has no principles and no conscience (as John Dean so amply documented in Conservatives Without Conscience).

    So I don’t really see it happening without some revelation of even bigger misconduct than what we already know about. However, with a Congress with the authority to investigate the administration’s secrecy-shrouded actions of the past 6 years (which the people clearly want to see investigated), it’s quite possible that some new skeletons may be found in that closet.

  • Freeyourmind

    No pun intended but…..Amen.

  • http://infophilia.blogspot.com Infophile

    Well, those of you who watched the Daily Show last night know that Howard Dean has said they don’t plan to impeach him. Most likely they just don’t have the majority to do it.

  • http://dominicself.co.uk Dominic Self

    Heartfelt congratulations and thanks to every single American who voted Democrat in these elections. It’s a powerful symbol to the world that change is coming, and much needed it is :D

  • http://hellboundalleee.blogspot.com/ Hellbound Alleee

    …and everything will remain the same. No reason to think otherwise. There may still be separation of church and state, but belief in the state (and state violence against citizens) remains as strong as ever.

  • Christopher

    I don’t see what you are rejoicing about: our political system has been reduced to a two-party shell game! While both parties profess that they are superior to the naxt and that things will be different on their watch, no real change in society occurs when tables turn.

    What we need are strong third and fourth parties to bring real competition into the political arena, but I doubt that will happen anytime soon…

  • Montu

    Christopher, you’re completely right, we do need a few more parties that can offer real alternatives. But I think the reason that most people are happy right now (and definitely why I am) is that for the moment the Republicans have been stripped of their absolute power. We’ve all watched as our Constitution and Bill of Rights has been pissed on and torn apart for the last 6 years, and how these people have absolutely no regard for the will of their constituents. Not that the Democrats are much better, but they have at least tried (in most cases, but certainly not all) to stop some of the more horrendous bills going through, only to be ridiculed by the Republicans for being un-American (remember the whole filibuster issue?). For the most part I don’t like the Democrats much more then I like the Republicans, they’re all the same to me in practice, but we’re all feeling that we need a change, even if it’s only a small one. To me it seems important to at least start moving back towards center/left before a third party gets enough momentum to offer a good alternative.

  • BILLF

    The Democrats have pretty much sat on the sidelines and let the Republicans do whatever they have wanted for six years. I now suspect that they are just as much in the corporations’ pockets as the Republicans are.

    The Republicans lost this election. I hope the Democrats understand that they have won this election by default. If the democrats do not take advantage of this, and the country is still stuck in Iraq which I am sure we will be, 2008 might finally be the opportunity for a third party to step in.

    Interesting that gasoline prices have jumped up 10 cents a gallon in my area since the election. I have not believed the Republican-low-gas-prices-to-win-the-election conspiracy theories, but maybe I was wrong.

  • http://www.dangerousintersection.org Erich Vieth

    What concerns me is that it took such immense effort to defeat so many crooks, zealots and incompetents. This should have been a lot easier than it was. Why was it so difficult to pull off this exorcism of America? The reason I ask is that Republicans need seemingly only clean up their act A LITTLE to reverse their fortunes. You see, a lot of these victories came at razor thin margins.

    I often think of two issues that must be dealt with before we can have “normal” elections, where thoughtful people come together to elect thoughtful leaders. We need an aggressive and independent media, independent of corporate and the prevailing political power. Second, we need public financing for elections. The alternative, private financing means corporate funding. I’m not the corporate basher I might seem to be. Corporations are efficient at doing many things. At their heart, though, they are money-making machines. When corporations have too much control over our media and our elections, we’re in deep trouble.

    I woke with a spring in my step too on Wednesday. I worry, though, that what happened this week is but a brief hiccup in a long downward spiral. A spiral that cannot be reversed without perhaps more courage and intelligence than we will be able to muster in the long run.

  • andrea

    There are no viable alternate party candidates because all of the ones who try to start up are seen as extremeists and generally they are. Like it or not, the GOP and the Dems are big enough that they encompass a range of stances.

    and of course the gas price was manipulated by the oil companies. It just wasn’t enough to make a difference.

  • Joe Hardwick

    I only recently discovered this blog and I have enjoyed the articles and the readership commentary. This post caught me off guard. There is a glaring presumption that your readership shares your political affiliations. More disturbing still was the attitude in some of these posts. Particularly Erich’s. Maybe Republicans aren’t welcome here.
    The Republican party was founded in the time of Lincoln, for the explicit purpose of supportting those causes for which he has endeared himself in the proud hearts of many Americans, Republican and Democrat alike. The party named itself after the followers of Thomas Jefferson, who did more than any of our other founding fathers to protect our government and the citizens who’s duty it is to serve from the bigotry, hipocracy, hatred, and the superstitious concealment of greed and unquenchable thirst for – and abuse of – power that characterize what you have come to call, “the religous right.”
    But right and left refer to liberalism vs conservativism, which differ in their deffinitions by the direction in which they tend to look. The brand of conservativism does not look back to the founding ideals; it looks back to the darkness, misery and madness from which our Enlightened forefathers extracted us.
    It is common knowledge that politicians are corrupt. The tragic truth is that there is reason to doubt whether they could be politicians at all, if they weren’t. They are marketed and packeged liers, because that is what there is a market for. No one supplies what isn’t demanded. Democrats are as plastic as Republicans, and simplistic finger pointing doesn’t diminish demand, it stimulates it.

  • Joe Hardwick

    I should start posting first in Word, so I can check for typos…sorry.

  • Chris

    The history of the Republican party is, sadly, largely irrelevant. Lincoln wouldn’t recognize the new Republicans as part of his party, nor would Eisenhower. Goldwater despised them. Roosevelt (the Republican one) is on record opposing the unitary executive (although not by that name).

    Read Conservatives without Conscience before you try to draw connections between the Republican party of today and the Republican party of even one generation ago.

    The party was, quite simply, hijacked.

    As for whether Democrats are any different… we’ll see in the next two years, won’t we? If Pelosi keeps all the autocratic, authoritarian methods of running the House that were pioneered by Gingrich, DeLay and Hastert, then it may indeed be proved that the existing parties aren’t significantly different.

    Certainly, many of us will be watching. We’re not going to tolerate the same garbage in a new bag. But I think there’s good reason to suppose that the parties *are* different and the reason you think they’re not is the media’s longstanding practice of false parity. The modern “mainstream” press corps is made largely of people who maintain a principled and dignified neutrality between fire brigades and fires (or perhaps more precisely, arsonists), and are very careful to avoid the appearance of taking sides in the controversy over whether or not calls to extinguish the fire are irresponsible alarmism.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    Infophile:

    Well, those of you who watched the Daily Show last night know that Howard Dean has said they don’t plan to impeach him. Most likely they just don’t have the majority to do it.

    No, not by a long shot, unfortunately – not in the House, and especially not in the Senate. I wouldn’t be upset if they tried anyway, as a symbolic gesture. After all, Bush has committed impeachable offenses; for one thing, he admits violating FISA, the punishment for which is up to five years in prison. On the other hand, given that meaningless symbolism is what the Republicans excel at, I’d still be happy if the Democrats decided instead to pass some genuinely realistic and meaningful bills to improve Americans’ lives. I just hope they don’t hold back on impeachment because they don’t want to seem “extremist”. That’s how they lost power in the first place.

    Joe Hardwick:

    This post caught me off guard. There is a glaring presumption that your readership shares your political affiliations.

    There is no such presumption: I write not to please an audience or to say what I think people want to hear, but to express my opinions. If you don’t agree, you’re welcome to say something in response, which is why each post has a comment feature. However, the fact of the matter is that most atheists are politically liberal, or at least libertarian, and the Republican party is neither of those things. On the contrary, it is wholly controlled by some of the most regressive and authoritarian elements in American politics at the moment.

    The Republican party was founded in the time of Lincoln, for the explicit purpose of supportting those causes for which he has endeared himself in the proud hearts of many Americans, Republican and Democrat alike.

    I don’t deny it. But the Republican party has done a complete about-face from its founding vision and now stands in unapologetic support of the very causes that people like Lincoln and Jefferson opposed. The Democrats are now the progressive party, which is why I support them.

    Democrats are as plastic as Republicans…

    Sorry, no. I don’t deny that there’s corruption, cowardice and ineptitude among the Democrats – truth, that’s how they got themselves into the minority in the first place, by refusing to stand up for what they supposedly believed in and instead only advocating positions deemed sufficiently bland and inoffensive. But to say that there is no difference between the two parties is just wrong. The Democrats do stand for the kind of liberal, progressive values that the Republicans do not; it’s just that they’ve fallen short in defending them. Given the role of citizen activism and small donors in this election, and given the many excellent new candidates who won this year, I’m hopeful that there is a new progressive movement building that will remind the Democratic establishment where they came from.

    Chris:

    The modern “mainstream” press corps is made largely of people who maintain a principled and dignified neutrality between fire brigades and fires (or perhaps more precisely, arsonists), and are very careful to avoid the appearance of taking sides in the controversy over whether or not calls to extinguish the fire are irresponsible alarmism.

    Hah, well put, sir! That’s a brilliant metaphor that captures the heart of the problem: the mainstream media has so often been criticized for not being impartial that they now think they’re supposed to be impartial between truth and falsehood. I wrote about this a little in a post from June, “The Illusion of Balance“.

  • BletchleyPark

    Being an atheist does not mean you support the Democrats on their every policy. The Republicans have been in power so long that they allowed their ethics to erode away till they were guilty of all kinds of stupid behind-the-scenes behavior. The reason the Republicans have been in power so long is that past Democrats, Bill Clinton foremost among them, let their power go to their glands and got caught. It will always be thus; the party in power will trash the hotel room till they get thrown out by management. I support the separation of church and state, but I want to decide what I do with my money–even how much to give to what charity, etc. The Democrats will raise taxes and misspend them the way only government can do. They’ll take your money too, make no mistake about it!

    This site should remember that separation of church and state is good; being an atheist is good; smaller, less intrusive government is good; low taxes are good; capitalism is good. Your spiteful afterglow posted above is not constructive or helpful. In a few years, you’ll be upset again, “gnashing your teeth” when the public see how much of their paychecks disappear into that big sinkhole in Washington.

  • Chris

    BletchleyPark: I disagree. The current crop of Republicans were unethical *before* they got into office. Indeed, their unethical dirty tricks are a significant part of *how* they got into office (and took over the party).

    Free markets are good (usually). “Capitalism” is a word often used to cover corporate welfare and other forms of rent seeking, which is not good at all. And it’s been a long time since Republicans were the party of less intrusive government in anything other than empty rhetoric (longer than my lifetime, anyway). Why don’t you ask Michael Schiavo which party is less intrusive?

    You seem to be one of those people under the delusion that the party of Eisenhower and Goldwater is still around. It isn’t. There’s a wolf in elephant’s clothing instead.

    P.S. Fire brigades and fires were not originally my metaphor, but Churchill’s (who used it as an example of when to reject neutrality); I just embellished it a bit to apply it to the media.

  • lpetrich

    The Republican Party had indeed been the party of Abraham Lincoln. But over the last few decades, it has become the party of Jefferson Davis, as none less than Trent Lott has more-or-less stated.

    And overshadowed by the election to the House of the first Muslim is the election to that body of two Buddhists:

    Hank Johnson of Georgia
    Mazie Hirono of Hawaii

    Like the Muslim, both Buddhists are Democrats.

  • Christopher

    If minority faiths can openly run for office now, perhaps in the future we will see some open atheists running for office as well (hopefully ones that don’t just tow party lines- any party…).

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    Your spiteful afterglow posted above is not constructive or helpful.

    I didn’t claim it was either. I claimed it was cathartic. This country has been controlled by a cabal of warmongering fanatics for too long for me not to feel joy at the election returns. As I said, however, once the euphoria fades, the real, constructive work of undoing the damage they have done and returning America to the path of sanity will begin.

  • http://worthlesswell.blogspot.com/ Unbeliever

    Take the socialism out of the Democratic Party, and I’ll be happy to vote for them. But because of the statist nature of the left, I’ve never once cast a ballot for a Democratic candidate.

    As BletchleyPark said, they are coming for our money. The Democrats have their hearts in the right place, but their hands in the wrong place: our wallets. It is time for the Democrats to embrace freedom, not just for minorites and gays, but for taxpayers and property-owners. The freedom to control your life and what belongs to you, what you have worked hard to earn.

    If I want to see church/state separation and smaller government, is there a viable party for me?

  • Joe Hardwick

    the Notocratican party?

  • Unbeliever

    I truly wish that “None of the above” were a valid option.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    Unbeliever, I suggest you ask yourself what makes the Democrats any more “statist” than the Republicans. On the contrary, George W. Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress have presided over one of the most staggeringly massive expansions in government entitlement programs in America’s entire history, with a corresponding massive increase in deficit and expansion of the federal bureaucracy. The “faith-based initiative” is nothing but a system of distributing government pork to religious groups whom the Bush administration hopes will support them in return, and homeland security funding, as it has been allocated by the Republicans, has worked out the same way. Even the Republican tax cuts were so regressive as to make little practical difference for anyone other than the top 1% of earners, and their failure to revise the alternative minimum tax means that many people’s taxes may actually increase (unless the new Democratic Congress takes action, which they have said they will). And let’s not forget the Republicans’ blatant authoritarianism when it comes to people’s private lives; their recent decision to ban adults from gambling over the Internet in their own homes was the most recent, but hardly the most egregious, example. (Need I mention Terri Schiavo?)

    If you’re concerned about statism, I suggest you vote for Democrats. At least they seem to be able to balance the budget and are much less concerned with what people do in their private lives.

  • Unbeliever

    Adam,

    I appreciate your input. I’ve usually voted Republican because that was the only party interested in smaller government. You are right, however, that the current crop of Republicans are no longer interested in smaller government, only in controling people and staying in power.

    If I ever saw a Democratic candidate that said that he believed in property rights and was against wealth-redistribution, I’m sure that I would give him my vote. But somehow, I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

    I want to know: why can’t we have a viable party that is for personal freedom AND personal responsibility. I’m left with the theocrats or the socialists.


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