Election observations

I’m sure I’ll have more to say in the days and weeks ahead, but here are a few preliminary observations about Tuesday’s election:

–The Democratic takeover of the House and possible takeover of the Senate is good news. Although I supported the decision to invade Iraq, the Bush administration has to take responsibility for the long series of mistakes and failures, and the general hubris, that have made the mission there so much more deadly and costly than it should have been. Add to that the inexcusably botched response to Hurricane Katrina, the culture of corruption and favoritism on Capitol Hill, and an administration and Congress more committed to the interests of their wealthy and corporate supporters than to ordinary Americans, and– well, “It’s time… for a change.”

–Despite the simple-minded predictions of some, and the hopes of the “out now” forces, the election does not mean the US will simply pick up and leave Iraq. Not all Democrats in Congress favor a hard-and-fast deadline for withdrawal. The election does mean, I hope, some fresh thinking about how to proceed in Iraq. I also hope it means that Donald Rumsfeld’s failed tenure as secretary of defense will end fairly soon. And I hope it means that the Bush administration will stop trying to deceive the American people about how things are going over there.

–Joe Lieberman’s defeat in last summer’s Connecticut Democratic primary by an antiwar opponent turned out not to be such a political earthquake after all. Even a substantial number of war opponents voted for Lieberman based on his established (and largely liberal) record. And Lieberman (who will caucus with the Democrats) is among those calling for the replacement of Rumsfeld.

–I’m sorry Tammy Duckworth– the Army helicopter pilot who lost both her legs in Iraq– was narrowly defeated in her race for Congress. She was, after all, a Democrat running in a traditionally Republican district. I hope she’ll try again.

–Voters in six states approved increases in the minimum wage. Democrats have made an increase in the federal minimum wage one of their priorities for the next Congress. The old Republican scare claims about minimum wage increases costing jobs don’t seem to be working well these days.

–Missouri voters approved a measure allowing embryonic stem cell research in the state, despite the opposition of “pro-life” forces. A South Dakota measure banning virtually all abortions was defeated. Predictably social conservatives managed to pass anti-gay marriage measures in seven states. However in Arizona an effort to include such a ban in the state constitution actually lost.

–Kinky Friedman lost the race for governor of Texas. Darn it.


Update: Not only did voters elect the first declared socialist to the Senate, they elected the first Muslim to Congress.

Keith Ellison, a Minnesota state legislator and lawyer, reached the political milestone by defeating two other candidates in Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District, which covers the Minneapolis area.
Ellison is also the first African-American from Minnesota to be elected to the U.S. House. He ran on the Democratic-Farmer-Labor ticket in a district that is heavily liberal.
His religious message is one of inclusiveness.

Regarding his Muslim faith, he said, “people draw strength and moral courage from a variety of religious traditions.”

“Mine have come from both Catholicism and Islam. I was raised Catholic and later became a Muslim while attending Wayne State University. I am inspired by the Quran’s message of an encompassing divine love, and a deep faith guides my life every day.”

Ellison’s position on the Israeli-Palestinian issue is supportive of the two-state solution and the road map to peace process. He has been critical of the Hamas movement.

“Peace is necessary for both Israeli and Palestinian people, and I wholeheartedly support peace movements in Israel and throughout the region,” he said in a statement on his Web site.

He was endorsed by the Twin Cities newspaper, the American Jewish World, which said, “In Ellison, we have a moderate Muslim who extends his hand in friendship to the Jewish community and supports the security of the State of Israel.”

Further update: Not so coincidentally, Bush accepted Rumsfeld’s resignation today. Last week, Bush declared that Rumsfeld would remain as secretary of defense through the end of his term.

Or not, as the case may be.

Final update: George Allen has conceded to Jim Webb in Virginia, meaning the Senate as well as the House will be controlled by the Democrats.