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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

It’s not over yet: A view from the right

Published: November 7, 2008
Section: Opinions

On Tuesday night the Republicans were handed a crushing defeat in the House, the Senate, and in the presidential race. President-elect Obama now heads to the White House with approximately a 56 to 44 majority in the Senate and approximately a 258 to 177 majority in the House of Representatives. The Republicans lost Senate seats in the Republican strongholds of Virginia and North Carolina while Indiana sided with Barack Obama in the Presidential race. Finally, there are no longer any Republicans in New England. It looks like the Republicans are on the run for now, having to deal with an unpopular president and receiving, unjustifiably, the blame for a recessionary economy. However, all is not lost for the Republicans and Tuesday night had a few victories for the right.

The first victory for the Republicans, if you can even call it that, is that the Democrats seem to have fallen short of a sixty seat filibuster proof Senate majority. Now this is not guaranteed considering that there are four Senate seats unaccounted for, however, three of the seats in question look to favor the Republicans. The first is the Senate seat in Minnesota, which is between Norm Coleman and Al Franken. While the vote is too close to call and there will be a recount, right now Coleman has a lead over Franken if only by a hair. If the vote count was accurate then Coleman will walk away with the Senate seat. The second seat that is unaccounted for is the Georgia Senate seat currently fought over by Saxby Chambliss and Jim Martin. While Chambliss did win the plurality of votes, he did not win a majority, which will lead to a mandatory run-off vote to determine who will win the seat. However, Chambliss had a good lead over Martin and Martin is going to need a considerable amount of the third party candidates vote in order to overcome the vote gap. Finally, Senator Stevens pulled an upset with his victory despite his recent conviction. Unfortunately for him, Stevens can not serve his time in the Senate and his time in Prison so there will more than likely be a special election for his seat. It is unclear whether the people of Alaska elected Stevens because he is a Republican or because he brings home the pork. However, if a convicted felon can receive the Alaskan Senate seat, then another Republican will have a good chance at taking the seat as well. So while none of these seats are sealed up for the Republicans, it does look like the drive for sixty Senate seats by the Democrats will fall short. However, the real victory for conservatives came from several important ballot measures in several states.

In California, Florida, and Arizona, voters approved amendments to define marriage as the union between one man and one woman and Arkansas approved an initiative to ban gays from adopting. The passage of these measures shows that social conservatism is not dead and that conservatives can still benefit from these social issues. The irony in all of this is that Barack Obama’s registration of large numbers of new black voters may have actually been what pushed the gay marriage bans over the top. In the CNN exit polls, African Americans supported California and Florida’s gay marriage bans by approximately 70% to 30%. So in essence, conservatives can actually thank Barack Obama for his assistance in pushing these bans through. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in Obama’s presidency. It is possible that gays could see less progress for their issues under an Obama administration than there was during Bush’s administration. In fact, it is likely that Barack Obama has actually pushed the gay rights movement backwards, even if it was not intentional. Obama could lose support among the gay population or black population if the Republicans push this issue hard enough, which would greatly aid the Republicans in 2012 and even possibly in 2010. A second ballot measure victory for conservatives came from Nebraska’s amendment to end affirmative action. Barack Obama’s election as president does not mean that racism no longer exists, however, it does mean that we can start to phase out affirmative action. Barack Obama has even mentioned that he supports socio-economic based affirmative action as opposed to racial affirmative action. While this is not perfect, it is a step in the right direction. Hopefully with the election of the first black president, affirmative action will be on its way out.

While this election was by far means a loss for Republicans, all was not lost. The Democrats do not appear to have gained a filibuster proof majority and some important conservative initiatives passed with flying colors. On top of this, it appears that a wedge issue has opened up that could be used to weaken Obama’s prospects in 2012, if the Republicans exploit that wedge effectively. Finally, Republican’s can rest easy knowing that the Democrats have large expectations to fulfill and this time they cannot blame their failures on the Republicans. It does not seem likely that the Democrats will be able to hold on to such large leads for a very long time and the Republicans should start gearing up to make gains in 2010. The ball is now in the court of Obama, Reid, and Pelosi and how they perform for the next two years will largely define whether or not their strong majority can hold.