Ed: This column appeared in the August 25, 2006 edition of the Kentucky Kernel.
In considering what to write for my inaugural Kernel column, I found myself overwhelmed at the possibilities. On the one hand, as the head of a student organization, there was the chance to shamelessly stump for my cause. On the other hand, as a student, there was the chance to speak out on issues that matter to students, to make random observations on campus life at UK. Of course, there was also the idea of simply writing whatever came to mind; to record my myriad musings. I have settled on providing a combination of all three, and then some.
We face this fall a monumental moment in modern American political history. You see, two years after each presidential election, Americans gather once again to select their congressional district’s US representatives and, in one third of the country, to select a US senator. In many states there are elections for other offices, such as governor (as in Texas and California) or mayor (as here in Lexington, KY). Unfortunately, most Americans seem to have forgotten that these midterm elections even occur.
According to a recent study conducted by U.S. Census Bureau, a whopping 89 million of Americans voted in the last midterm elections of 2002. What does this matter, you say? Here’s why this matters. In 2000, we had a president elected by one of the smallest margins of victory in our nation’s history, ascending to office only after the US Supreme Court (on which several of his father’s conservative appointees sat) declined to grant his opponent, Vice-President Al Gore a recount in Florida (where we have since discovered that Gore would likely have won the election in the event of a recount).
Then in 2004, we had yet another close election, this one coming down not to Florida, but to the Midwestern swing state of Ohio. More than 49% of Americans who voted didn’t want to return George W. Bush to the White House in 2004, and yet there he sits, having claimed a mandate. Such is democracy.
But there remains hope for those who oppose a president, even upon his razor-thin reelection. That great white hope is the midterm elections. By electing his political opponents to a majority in one or both houses of Congress, Americans who have grown dismayed with the President’s handling of the issues of the day—whether it be his arrogant, irresponsible “War on Terror” or his gross mismanagement of the Hurricane Katrina disaster—have a chance to launch a stone at this former Goliath’s proverbial forehead in 2006.
With a Democratic majority in one or both houses of Congress, Americans of conscience have a hope of stopping this President in his reckless pursuit of permanent tax cuts for the rich (which when combined with irresponsible spending increases have created one of the largest national deficits in our nation’s history), the cutting back of funding for embryonic stem cell research and programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, and in his never-ending efforts to once and for all destroy FDR’s New Deal by wiping out Social Security.
The midterm elections of 2006, however, are not simply a chance for Americans to flex their partisan muscles, but an opportunity to stand up and raise their voice. With such traditionally low turnout, our “leaders” in Congress have grown fat on incumbency pork. This year, Americans have the opportunity to participate in the other American pastime: throwing out the rascals. We have in our hands the ability elect good, respectable, and morally-sound leaders to positions of power in this country, proving once and for all that democracy is still alive and well in the good ol’ U.S. of A.