In essence, the voters asserted themselves as the
final check and balance in the U.S. political system, giving the
Democrats control of the House of Representatives and putting them
within reach of a Senate majority as well.
The results were even more devastating for Bush and
political adviser Karl Rove because the President had sought to turn the
Democratic tide by nationalizing the election and taking to the stump
with harsh attacks. Bush equated a Democratic win with a victory for the
"terrorists" and a defeat for America. [See Consortiumnews.com's "Bush
Will Say Anything."]
Initially, that Republican scare strategy, combined
with the news media's obsession over Sen. John Kerry's botched joke
about Iraq, seemed to be working. Over the last weekend, a Washington
Post poll showed the Democrats' double-digit lead shrinking to six
points. Just two days before the election, a Pew poll pegged the
Democrats' advantage down to four points.
But, in the campaign's final hours, the American
people appeared to have refocused on the frightening prospect of giving
Bush and the Republicans another blank check. A pre-election CNN poll
put the Democrats' lead back to 20 points.
That surge carried over into the actual voting,
with the Democrats routing the Republican House majority, ousting
vulnerable Republican senators and inching toward possible control of
The outcome sets the stage for a potentially
historic fight over America's constitutional system. Bush has vowed
never to give an inch on the Iraq War and Vice President Dick Cheney
promised that Bush's "war on terror" policies will continue "full steam
ahead" whatever the voters want.
In one interview, Cheney declared, "you cannot make
national security policy on the basis of that [elections]. It may not be
popular with the public. It doesn't matter, in the sense that we have to
continue the mission [in Iraq]."
Without doubt, the White House would have read the
significance of the voters' judgment differently if Republicans had been
returned to control in Congress. Then, Bush would be boasting about a
new mandate from the people and rolling over any remaining opposition.
But the significance of the Republican defeat
cannot be easily brushed aside. Beyond the issues that popped up in exit
polls – corruption, the Iraq War, etc. – the news media should have
taken into account the American people's discomfort with Bush's
assertion of "plenary" – or unlimited – power.
By rebuffing the Republicans, the American people
were saying they want to keep their Republic. They were defending their
quaint Constitution and Bill of Rights; they were embracing the clunky
notion of checks and balances; they were endorsing that old-fashioned
idea about the rule of law.
The nation's unease about Bush's thirst for
dictatorial powers has always been an underplayed issue, troubling
Americans across the political spectrum from liberal to conservative.
It remains to be seen what the Democrats will do
with their new congressional clout. But it can't be disputed that the
voters just said no to President Bush. The American people rejected
Bush's grim vision of endless war and the end to the Republic.
Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra
stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from
Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at
secrecyandprivilege.com. It's also available at
Amazon.com, as is his 1999 book, Lost History: Contras, Cocaine,
the Press & 'Project Truth.'