Regardless of individual political preferences, there are two key reasons why every American should be heartened by what happened in Tuesday’s elections. 

          First, in my opinion, we’ve witnessed a rejuvenation of American democracy. Up until a few weeks ago, I had become increasingly concerned about the previously unparalleled political apathy and ignorance exhibited by the average American citizen. This civic disengagement was exploited by leaders who realized that they couldn’t be held accountable by constituencies that don’t pay attention. However, Tuesday’s elections marked a crucial turning point. The American people have demonstrated they won’t settle for empty rhetoric and political spin…at least not indefinitely.

          Second, while I’m not convinced these elections will have an immediate impact on policy, they will play a critical role in the way the current era is recorded in history. A Legislature that is not completely dominated by the President’s fellow party members is much more likely to demand an inquiry into said President’s recent activities and decision-making processes. The new power arrangement will halt—and, with some luck, at least partially reverse—what had previously appeared to be an endless expansion of Executive power. Last year, President Bush and others accused their opponents of trying to ‘re-write history’—in other words, to tell a version of history which didn’t fit into a very specific political agenda. These elections have revoked this Administration’s monopolistic power to dictate what constitutes ‘history’.  

          The results of one election may not be able to undo the damage the Bush Administration has inflicted on the US and much of the world. However, increasing the likelihood that those responsible for the damage will be held responsible—as well as making further damage more difficult to inflict—may be the next best thing.

                                                Christine Heckman, AID Senior Political Analyst