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ISSUE 120 VOL 1 PUBLISHED 9/22/2006

Midterms offer change

By Katherine Madden
Contributing Writers

Friday, September 22, 2006

The possibility of a Democratic Congressional majority is tantalizingly near. The Democrats need only win six seats to secure the Senate and fifteen to win back the House of Representatives. Numerous races are leaning left or have been declared toss-ups, and the general consensus is that Americans disapprove of the direction this administration has taken. However, many of these close races put Democrats up against long-term Republican incumbents whose popularity stems from local familiarity, not congressional performance.

In order to take back Congress, the Democrats must court the votes of the substantial population of Americans who identify themselves as moderates, specifically the white, working-class Christian vote. This elusive portion of the electorate will not be won over by Democratic domestic policies, which stem from humanitarianism but often smack of patronage when delivered outside the base. Senator Barack Obama (D-Il.) told The New Yorker magazine in May that “a successful swing state candidate should stand for progressive values, but they’ve got to appeal to common sense as opposed to ideology.”

Our own Minnesota is once again a swing state, and Democratic senatorial candidate Amy Klobuchar was ahead of six-year Republican incumbent Mark Kennedy by ten points in the August 23-27 Gallup Poll in what promises to be a dangerously close race. Federal Exchange Commission filings reveal that both Senate candidates in Minnesota enjoy the support of state business organizations as well as that of partisan groups and political action committees.

The disparate Democrats need to unite and to clarify their stance on Iraq – it has been embarrassing to watch them try to show solidarity with and distances themselves from outbursts such as Pennsylvania Representative John Murtha’s, but their much-touted exit strategies are not enough. Iraq has been so thoroughly corrupted that no satisfactory solution exists. The Democrats should campaign emphasizing their most valuable contribution in the last Congress: performing the legislatural duty of holding the executive branch accountable.

Granted, the Democrats began to fulfill this role belatedly, concerned more with personal electability than executive accountability leading up to the war in Iraq. But it is widely acknowledged that this country was led to war on inadequate intelligence, and military experts, former administration officials, and the general public agree we are entrenched in a quagmire with no end in sight.

Neither party can provide a satisfactory solution; every politician pushing for an immediate exit fails to mention that any pullout would take years. But the Democratic Party can unite around a gradual exit strategy and assure the electorate that they will continue checking the President’s powers. President Bush has asserted his authority in the illegal treatment of prisoners nominally protected under Common Article III of the Geneva Conventions, surveillance of phone and internet lines without a warrant, and numerous other contestable executive actions in the war on terror.

The incompetency of the Republican Party in other areas also must be stressed in the Democratic strategy to take back the House and the Senate. This Republican Congress, with the recent exceptions of dissenting Senators John Warren, John McCain, and Lindsey Graham, has strayed from its 1994 “Contract With America,” which promised, among other things, congressional reform and accountability. In the face of Republican mistakes and scandals, the Democratic Party has committed itself to accountability, and, given a congressional majority with concomitant subpoena power, could fight even harder to protect our national security, the safety of our troops and the integrity of the executive branch of our government.

Contributing writer Katherine Madden is a first year from Grand Forks, N.D. She majors in history.

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