The hopes of the Democratic Party to maintain control of the Senate were laid to rest, ironically, at a memorial service.I speak of the memorial service for Minnesota Sen. Paul Wellstone, who was tragically killed along with several others in a plane crash. Instead of keeping the service somber and reverent, as it should have been, the event turned into a tacky political brouhaha for the man who was replacing Wellstone on the ticket, the liberal dinosaur Walter Mondale.
Independents and others in the state were disgusted by this display and voted into office, in what is quite a liberal state, a Republican, Norm Coleman.
What the heck happened? Democratic candidates everywhere didn’t just lose, they got their rear ends handed to them. Even Bill McBride, who many hoped would be the “dragon slayer” the party needed to defeat Fla. Gov. Jeb Bush, lost by a little under 700,000 votes.
What does this tell us about the election as a whole? Did the Republicans have better ideas, better issues to raise to the American people? Perhaps. It’s difficult to argue that the Republicans gained a Senate seat in Georgia because of Republican Saxby Chambliss’ stand on the “war on terror.”
But I don’t think you can reduce it simply to Republican candidates having better ideas than Democratic candidates. One of the main reasons the Republicans gained seats in a mid-term election for the first time in a century is that the Democrats, for the most part, ran on nothing.
The Democrats tried to run on their old campaign slogan, “It’s the economy, stupid,” but in the end it wasn’t. Why? To put it bluntly, when the campaign slogan was used in the past, thousands of civilians hadn’t been murdered by fanatical terrorists. In 1992, the reason the economy was faltering was because of mismanagement. That’s why the slogan worked.
Presently, people know the downfall isn’t totally the fault of anyone in particular. But, as usual, Democratic leaders were too stupid to realize this and tried to demonize the president and Republican politicians as the source of the country’s woes.
Meanwhile, they ran on few actual issues. And even where there were issues, they were vague at best. It’s true that McBride did have a detailed plan to pay for education without raising new taxes, but he never elaborated on his plan in the debates, allowing Bush to successfully harp with his “How are you going to pay for it, Bill?” ads. And nationally, while I personally consider them pretty ambiguous, the Republicans at least had the issues of the “war on terror” and homeland security to throw out to people.
The Democrats are going backwards. There are, once again, no clear leaders. Once again, you will have the liberal left grandstanding about how the party’s move toward the center has hurt them. Once again, the party comes out of a mid-term election with no true, unique characters to challenge a rather powerful George W. Bush in a short two years.
What can patch these oozing wounds? Unity. The Democrats are once again a minority in Washington, D.C. There’s no longer room for infighting. My party of choice either has to come together and get behind some real issues to distinguish themselves from their Republican counterparts, or they will lose even worse in 2004.
Joe Roma is a junior majoring in political firstname.lastname@example.org