The results are tallied and most races are decided; Democrats have gained a majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. The shift in power has already produced results, as Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld tendered his resignation Wednesday.
“Today, Rumsfeld said he was stepping down,” said Steven Tauber, associate professor of government and international studies. “If the Democrats didn’t win the House, he wouldn’t have done that.”
According to Tauber, a Democratic House can’t dictate military policy or pull troops out of Iraq directly. However, it can put pressure on the president to affect change, and some say Rumsfeld’s resignation is evidence of this.
“The president is the one in charge, but (Rumsfeld) is a symbol for a lot of the ways the war is run,” Tauber said. “Symbolically, it’s an admission that things are wrong.”
J. Edwin Benton, a professor of government and international affairs, agreed that increased Democratic power in the House will affect the way the president does his job.
“The president is going to have a tough row to hoe in regards to maintaining his ‘stay the course’ policy in Iraq,” Benton said. “You better believe that the Democrats are going to question every move and may bring about some change in the course.”
Benton also said that a large amount of the Democrats’ success was due to the localization of national issues such as the war.
Despite the impact of this year’s local elections on the national stage, Benton said voter apathy among young people has remained constant since the 26th Amendment lowered the voting age to 18.
“Since 1971, we are looking at roughly 35 years that the youngest age core, between 18 and 25 has – and I predict will always have – the lowest voter turnout,” he said. “This is simply because that age core is not engaged, uninterested, uninvolved and not paying attention to what is going on. I don’t really see that changing.”
Political science senior and Jim Davis gubernatorial campaign finance compliance assistant John Tolbert saw this reflected in the lack of Democratic campaigning on campus.
“I didn’t see much of anything from the USF Democrats,” he said.
According to Tolbert, young voters feel alienated, often thinking that there is no real reason to vote.
“Students feel that they have no connection with government and what is going on in the government doesn’t affect them whatsoever,” he said.
President of the College Republicans James Culp noticed the lack of Democratic campaigning on campus, as well.
“The Republicans had a table every Wednesday outside of Cooper and had a table at the straw poll,” he said. “I think we had the best representation because we had the only representation.”
Despite feeling that the Republican Party was well represented, Culp sees a general indifference among students in regard to voting. However, he believes the problem is the hectic pace of collegiate life and the different set of priorities that it inspires.
“Voter apathy in our age group is caused more so by our schedules than actual apathy toward politics,” he said. “I think the biggest thing is that people just don’t have time to be part of the process. And a lot of students have to pay tuition and car payments; voting is the last thing on their mind.”
President of the College Democrats Nic Zateslo defended the efforts of his organization, which he said spent its time working for separate campaigns rather than setting up tables on campus. The lack of Democratic representation was not due to apathy, but conflicting schedules.
“The club decided as a group, under my leadership, to help individual candidates rather than putting a table out,” he said. “We only have 12 to 15 active members and nobody’s schedule lined up well during the day to do that.”