The last presidential election may seem as
though it was an eternity ago. On Nov. 7, 2000, hanging chads, poor
turnout and disenfranchised voters cast a pall over the 2000
presidential election. After days of recounts and a vicious court
fight, Texas Gov. George W. Bush was declared the winner, scraping
out a close victory against Vice President Al Gore. In the ensuing
four years, nonprofit groups, activists and concerned citizens have
worked tirelessly across the country to register and inform voters.
It was the birth of a new grassroots movement — one that
promised to raise turnout, raise awareness and revive the
democratic ideal in America.

Beth Dykstra

Today, little appears to have changed. Despite unprecedented
efforts to mobilize voters across the nation, the increase in
turnout necessary to dramatically alter the election failed to
materialize. Despite a tremendous investment of resources and
manpower, the Democratic Party was unable to put together a team
that could fully capitalize on a weak incumbent. The election
remains in limbo. And despite four years of policy that has ravaged
our environment, our national budget and our reputation abroad,
Bush will, pending a challenge from the Kerry campaign in Ohio,
remain in the Oval Office. Regardless, today we move forward. We
expect new leadership from the Democrats, and, should Bush
officially be declared the winner, a renewed commitment to
multilateralism, domestically and internationally, from the Bush
administration.

Yesterday’s election was a massive
defeat for the Democratic Party at all levels of government. While
it appears that Kerry has indeed lost the election, it was but one
setback in a night of devastating losses for the Democrats. Sen.
Tom Daschle, the Senate minority leader, became only the third
leader in Senate history to lose a bid for re-election. Despite
some valiant efforts by the Democratic senatorial candidates, the
GOP capitalized on a string of retirements in the South to boost
its control in the Senate. A landslide in the U.S. House
supplemented the Senate victory to give the GOP firm control of
both chambers of Congress. Due to gerrymandering, it is highly
unlikely that Democrats will regain the House until at least the
2012 elections.

Should the results hold and Bush be declared the winner, a
friendly Congress will not only help ease the transition into
Bush’s second term, but it will help him leave his mark on an
aging U.S. Supreme Court. With effective control of all three
branches of the government, the Republican Party will have
political carté blanche when it comes to translating its
contentious social and foreign policy agendas into concrete policy
proposals.

A widened margin of support in Congress will most likely give
the president a green light to make his controversial tax cuts
permanent. Bush will likely have the luxury of a fiscal rubber
stamp in Congress when it comes to funding for military operations,
with a newly elected Congress unlikely to challenge him on Iraq.
Most significantly however, without a powerful Democratic voice in
Congress pushing him toward the center, Bush will still have little
trouble bringing his highly controversial social policies to the
foreground of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Congress. With a
weaker presence in the Senate, the Democrats will be less able to
mount an effective challenge to Bush’s nominees.

After a highly energetic campaign, the results will likely be an
across-the-board failure for the Democratic Party. Not only did the
GOP sustain control of an up-for-grabs Senate, but the
Republicans’ stranglehold on the House and another term in
the White House is likely to bring a frustrating four years to a
defeated Democratic Party

It was widely expected that
yesterday’s election would have extremely heavy turnout.
After years of dismal turnout, many observers predicted that droves
of voters would take advantage of their constitutional right to the
franchise. While this is to some degree true, the increased turnout
had almost no discernible effect on the election. After four years,
a terrorist attack, a war and an economic rollercoaster ride,
voters returned essentially the same results they did in 2000. For
all the excitement about activism, it seems to have failed: The
electoral results are virtually unchanged from four years ago.

In a stunning disappointment, young voters did not seem to turn
out in the numbers many had anticipated. Prior to the election,
many predicted that the youth vote would be a greater proportion of
the overall vote. Unfortunately, according to NBC News, exit
polling indicate that those between the ages of 18 and 26 accounted
for only 17 percent of all voters — the same proportion as in
2000.

In the aftermath of this election, a new
direction is needed — one that, unfortunately, could not be
secured electorally. For the Democratic Party, the time has come
for serious soul searching. The party has suffered three major
electoral debacles since 2000, and all three parts of the federal
government will likely remain firmly within Republican hands.
Candidates across the board have been unable to connect with
voters, and the government remains firmly in the hands of a single
party.

If there is a silver lining for the Democrats, it is in a young
state senator from Illinois named Barack Obama. Obama, running
against a hand-picked opponent, was able to present a message with
broad appeal and win in a landslide. He was able to connect with
average voters in a way that Kerry and many Democrats cannot. If
the Democrats hope to rebound from this election, leaders like
Obama could very well light the way.

Bush will likely have his first clear electoral mandate, and he
is in a position to continue the conservative agenda he has
advocated for the last few years. It is our hope, however, that in
the interest of national unity, Bush will attempt to re-engage the
center. Without the pressures of re-election, we sincerely hope
that the “compassionate conservatism” that Bush
promised in his first term will finally come to fruition.

Bush’s fiscal policy has plunged the United States into a
deep deficit, which threatens long-term economic stability. His
policy in Iraq has mired this nation in an unending conflict with
no clear direction. His social positions, which played a key role
in securing his re-election, are dividing this nation in a way not
seen since the civil rights movement of the mid-20th century.

While we are disappointed at the result of this year’s
election, we hope that a possible second term will prove a marked
departure from the first four years of the Bush White House. At
this point, what is needed is not four more years of polarizing
leadership, but a new direction. Only temperance and skilled
statesmanship will right the nation in this, a very precarious
time.

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