At the nation’s most politically active campus, Election Day is like Christmas. The College Republicans and College Democrats held parties. Smaller gatherings of friends were glued to CNN, MSNBC and Fox News as each person followed their home races.
Network coverage of this year’s election was fun to watch. CNN’s unstoppable team even had their political commentators wear ties to represent their party affiliation. They also regularly cut to a team of bloggers camped out at Tryst in Adams Morgan. It looked like everyone involved was having the politically nerdy time of his life. A graphics war of epic proportions also let viewers in on the fun, including color-coded maps and a scale showing the balance of parties. It was paradise for these nerdy political newshounds.
For AU’s large liberal contingent, yesterday was a day to celebrate. Democrats took 28 House seats previously held by Republicans and five Senate seats. At press time, Democrats held 50 seats in the Senate and Republicans 49. Key pickups in Pennsylvania, Montana, Missouri, Rhode Island and Ohio helped propel the Democrats to a probable majority. Reuters and the AP called Virginia for Democrat Jim Webb late last night. If confirmed by the official count, Democrats will control the Senate with 51 seats.
Whether you were celebrating with new speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi or crying with Sen. Rick Santorum’s daughter, everyone should agree that this election finally showed the democratic electoral process works. Numbers still aren’t finalized, but voter turnout was high. The American people came out and made their voices heard. They voted for a change of direction in Iraq and for separation of powers. The aftermath on campus felt as if triumph was in the air, instead of the disillusionment that sometimes follows Election Day.
This election also provided at least two historic “firsts.” Nancy Pelosi will become the first female Speaker of the House and Representative-elect Keith Ellison of Minnesota’s fifth district is the first Muslim elected to Congress.
Overall, however, it’s a time for working, not for gloating. Pelosi has proposed several initiatives to be accomplished in her first “hundred hours,” including enacting a minimum wage hike and the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. Obviously, most of the Democrats’ proposals will face opposition from Bush and the Republicans, but Bush pledged yesterday - before announcing the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld - to reach across the aisle to work with the Democrats.
Ideally, Bush will stick with his promise and the Democrats will follow suit. At a time when partisan bickering and increasingly nasty negative ads threaten to turn disillusioned youth away from politics, compromise is necessary now more than ever from both parties.