So much for the "permanent Republican majority."
According to the GOP's true believers, their party's hold on power was supposed to last at least a generation, the inevitable result of Karl Rove's political genius. Instead, their presumptuous pipe dream went up in smoke last week, as Democrats took control of both houses of Congress. Locally, barring any post-recount changes in results -- something that rarely happens -- the Board of County Commissioners will be in Democrats' hands, too.
The driving force behind the Dems' dramatic gains in Washington was the anti-Iraq, anti-corruption, and anti-Bush sentiment that swept through the country, but you also have to give credit to the Democrats' national organization, which ran a spirited, disciplined campaign.
Local Dems? Not so much. In fact, you have to figure the overall anti-GOP mood was what thwarted local Republicans' aggressive county commission campaign. Lord knows it wasn't local Democrats, who loped through their usual dowdy paces and were completely taken by surprise when the state GOP bought TV ads and nearly pulled off a big upset.
Gone from the board is Wilhelmenia Rembert, a brilliant woman who probably had more influence as a school board member than as a county commissioner. Jim Puckett was also defeated, although it's unlikely that Puckett, who replaced former commissioner Joel Carter as the board's unofficial Resentful White Southerner, will fold his tent and fade away.
If, somehow, Republican Kaye McGarry's recount bid is successful (she only trails Parks Helms by 78 votes), the board's chairmanship would pass to either Dan Ramirez, who seemed lost or dazed during much of his previous term on the commission, or McGarry herself, whose most recent role has been playing Ms. No to Larry Gauvreau's Mr. No on the school board. Let's hope Helms' 78-vote margin holds.
In area Congressional races, Mel Watt and Sue Myrick kept their gerrymandered safe seats, while Rep. Alfred E. "Robin Hayes" Newman holds a slim lead over Larry Kissell in another recount-bound race, and York, S.C.'s John Spratt, a Democrat, is set to become chairman of the important U.S. House Budget Committee. Don't let Spratt's easy victory fool, you, however -- South Carolina didn't go all progressive on us. Heaven forbid. My home state, not content to have a law against gay marriage, last week went even farther and passed a constitutional ban against it, too. Wow, that'll show those queers who's boss.
Nationally, President Bush finally canned Don Rumsfeld as soon as the election was over, and was quick to accept blame for his party's rout. Good. He plainly deserves all the blame he can get. This is, after all, a president who ignored warnings that the United States was about to be attacked by al-Qaeda; got the country into a catastrophic and unnecessary war that has emboldened Islamic terrorists; did little to secure the nation's ports, railways and nuclear plants; wrecked America's reputation and influence around the world; shredded and demoralized our fighting forces; exacerbated a national redistribution of income with his massive tax breaks for the very richest Americans; criminally mismanaged the response to Hurricane Katrina; quashed stem cell research in the United States; sat on his hands while the country's health insurance problems got worse and worse; rammed through a Medicare prescription "benefit" that left drug companies free to gouge elderly patients; nominated Harriet Myers for a Supreme Court position; and did absolutely nothing while the Republican Congress reeled from one corruption scandal to another. And did I mention that he's an embarrassment who can't string three coherent sentences together?
Last week, while he was dumping Rumsfeld (who, now that he's out of office, may face war crimes charges via a German court), Bush expressed his eagerness to make Democratic leaders his new bedfellows (let's hope none of them are gay). Dubya's call for bipartisanship is one hell of a turnaround for a guy who spent the campaign season painting the Dems as troop-hating traitors. It's funny how getting your butt kicked can make you see straight.
Soon-to-be-Speaker-of-the-House Nancy Pelosi -- the "San Francisco liberal" who until last week was conservatives' favorite boogeyman (boogeyperson?) -- let it be known that even though she'd be glad to sit down with Dubya and hash things out, she wouldn't back down from her plans to quickly take on the minimum wage, drug prices, and gouging by oil companies. Democratic committee chairpersons are gearing up for investigations into a number of GOP scandals including war profiteering by Halliburton, Bechtel and others; the manipulation of intelligence information to provide a rationale for the war; fiscal mismanagement of the botched Iraqi reconstruction; and CIA secret prisons. And that's just a start.
Americans finally grew wise to the GOP's scare tactics -- such as Bush's claim less than a week before the election that a Democratic win would mean, "the terrorists win and America loses" -- and used their common sense. They wiped the veil from their eyes and voted for change, based on their revulsion at what the Republicans were doing to the country.
Americans should be proud that they did their civic duty and "threw the bums out." Now, for the first time in too many years, there's reason to be cautiously hopeful about the country's future.