2004 Elections

T’was days after elections, not a recount in sight. What will happen now? This is our plight. Alas, the voting is all done; the power passed to those who won. No more political ads via TV or mail — back to good ol’ materialistic temptations and sales. But, what we shall we discuss, around the watercooler we sit? Probably the weather and that same ol’ bull…”WAIT!” the pundit proclaimed, “there’s wrap-up, analysis, and plenty of blame! Voter turnout, policy change, and balance of power; that could keep us busy for countless more hours!

MSNBC quoted an Illinois county clerk who summarized this year’s turnout as “Gangbusters.” Approximately 120 million people voted during this year’s presidential election; 15 million more than in 2000. Estimates place the percentage of eligible voters who showed up to vote at just under 60 percent, which would be the highest since 1968. The 2000 campaign saw roughly 54 percent turnout. Although an impressive increase, experts indicate that swing states likely had significantly higher voter turnout than non-swing states, which saw only average turnout. This vast difference may result from swing states’ more intense “get out the vote” campaigns. At least six states — Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia — and the District of Columbia set voter-turnout records, according to Curtis Gans, director of the nonpartisan Committee for the Study of the American Electorate. Here in Minnesota, 77 percent of those eligible voted, according to the Minnesota Secretary of State; the highest since 1960, when 79 percent of eligible voters went to the polls. Despite overall increased voter participation, preliminary analysis suggests that the nation’s younger voters didn’t surge to the polls in significantly greater numbers as expected.

In the face of a few pundits’ predictions that greater voter turnout would benefit Kerry, thereby pushing him over the top, voters from both sides ran to the polls in greater numbers. In fact, the six record-setting states went for Bush, who won the popular and Electoral College votes this time around.

In addition to reelecting their presidential choice, Republicans strengthened their power in the United States Congress by picking up four seats in each the Senate and House. Previously, Republicans held a two-seat majority in the Senate (51 Republicans, 48 Democrats, and one independent) and a 23-seat majority in the House of Representatives (229 Republicans, 205 Democrats, and one independent). Now, Republicans will hold a 10-seat majority in the Senate (55 Republicans, 44 Democrats, and one independent) and a 31-seat majority in the House of Representatives (233 Republicans, 201 Democrats and one independent — but, two Republican and one Democrat wins are not final because they are too close to call at press time). Other notable election results include South Dakota Senator Tom Daschle losing his seat, ending his role as Senate minority leader and top-ranking Democrat.

Locally, the Minnesota House of Representative results had DFL-supporters smiling: they picked at least 13 seats previously held by Republicans, narrowing the Republican majority to two seats, although Patti Wetterling lost her bid for Congress.

The most significant long-term impact likely will not be felt from the executive or legislative branches of our federal government; it will probably come from the judicial branch: the Supreme Court. It, like the nation, is closely divided on a host of sensitive issues, including the Americans with Disabilities Act, abortion, religion, sexual orientation, race, the roles of judges and juries, and the powers of the federal and state governments. Currently, the court seems to be split three ways: three staunch conservatives, two moderate conservatives, and four moderate-to-liberals. But, three to four justices could retire during the next Presidential and Senate term, giving the current administration the advantage of choosing more conservative replacements who will help promote the Republican agenda and President’s legacy. These placements could tip the scales, significantly altering the nation’s judicial landscape.

As Kerry pointed out during his concession speech, there is “…the danger of division in our country and the need – the desperate need – for unity, for finding the common ground, coming together. Today, I hope that we can begin the healing.” Likewise, President Bush proclaimed during his acceptance speech, “Reaching [America’s] goals will require the broad support of Americans. So today I want to speak to every person who voted for my opponent: To make this nation stronger and better I will need your support, and I will work to earn it. I will do all I can do to deserve your trust. A new term is a new opportunity to reach out to the whole nation. We have one country, one Constitution and one future that binds us. And when we come together and work together, there is no limit to the greatness of America.”

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