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The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad by Fareed Zakaria
Polyarchy by Robert Dahl
The Nazi Seizure of Power by William Sheridan Allen
Terror and Liberalism by Paul Berman
The Moon Is Down by John Steinbeck
Whatever Happened to the Midterm Pickup?
That certainly didn't go according to plan for Democrats. After having such high hopes of possibly picking up a seat or two in the Senate and hoping for a miracle in the House to regain control for the first time in eight years, Democrats were trounced at the polls on Tuesday. With the Gerrymandering of congressional districts across the nation so that only about 15 of the 435 House seats were actually competitive, Democrats' hopes were in the Senate. Afterall, no matter how much the two parties try, they can never Gerrymander an entire state. So, going into Tuesday's election, Democrats were hoping for big Senate wins in Georgia, Missouri, Minnesota, South Dakota, Colorado, New Hampshire and Arkansas. Of all of those close races, Democrats only managed to win Arkansas and South Dakota.
In Georgia, Saxby Chambliss wowed the voters with his aristocratic-sounding name and defeated the triple-amputee incumbant Max Cleland by portraying the war hero as soft on national security and terrorism. In Missouri, a crucial Senate seat since the winner takes office immediately, incumbant Jean Carnahan was defeated narrowly by Jim Talent. In Minnesota, where the former vice-president was pitted against the St. Paul mayor, the wit and absent-mindedness of Walter Mondale showed once again why President Reagan won 49 states in 1984. In Colorado and New Hampshire, Democrats had hoped for come from behind victories, but were left with nothing but disappointment.
The South Dakota race was not decided until Wednesday morning, but it was a seat that Democrats needed to retain, not retake. Therefore, incumbant Tim Johnson's narrow 500 vote margin of victory should not be something to jump for joy over, for it is a sad day when the Senate Majority Leader might lose his junior senate partner across the aisle to the GOP.
Arkansas was the only real victory for Democrats. It was the only seat where a Democrat knocked off an incumbant. However, it is hard to attribute the victory to the strong credentials of Mark Pryor when his Republican opponent, Tim Hutchinson, virtually conceded defeat days before the election.
So what was the Democrat's problem?
For starters, they were up against the campaigner-in-chief. In the last two months of this campaign season, the President travelled to something like 23 states to campaign for Republican hopefuls. He raised more than $150 million for Republican candidates across the country. With the Republican candidates calling in the popular president to help them out, Democrats already faced a tough road to victory. That alone, though, is nothing but an excuse. The real problem lies in the Democratic party itself.
In the past year, Democrats have failed to identify a coherent policy platform. As Bush prepares the country for war in Iraq and Republicans are uniting behind him, Democrats have been caught with their pants down. They are largely undecided as to if they should be the party of peace and oppose a war, or if they should do the more popular thing and support a war that has been billed as in our national security interests. However by following the hawks to war, the voters would be unable to distinguish between the steadfast Republican war supporter and the follow-if-I-must Democrat. With war on the agenda, Democrats were squeezed.
Furthermore, while the White House presented the public with the idea that the election was a sort of mandate for war, Democrats did little to present a tangible alternative on the domestic front. While there may have been some incoherant mumbings of health care, social security, and the like, these idea were never transformed from old Democratic soundbytes into new, crucial issues for the 108th Congress to address.
Democrats hoped for a miracle but were left with a nightmare. It was a nightmare they brought upon themselves and a problem that Americans will have to cope with for the next two years. Let's hope that the next time around voters will come to their senses. But more importantly, let's hope Democrats will realize that without a plan the president who didn't even deserve four years will suddenly become a lame-duck leader until 2008. Scary.
Turkey held its parliamentary elections today. With nearly all of the votes tallied, the Justice and Development Party had approximately 34% of the votes followed by the Republican People's Party with 19%. No other party had more than 10%. According to Turkish law, only those parties that gain more than 10% of the vote may have seats in parliament. This law could have disasterous consequences for Turkish politics for it will allow the Justice and Development party to form a parliamentary government without any coalition partners. Despite the fact that only about 53% of the population will have their vote represented in parliament, that 34% will now have unchallenged power to rule.
With almost half of all votes being disregarded, the Justice and Development Party will be able to rule in a parliament of only two parties and therefore will rule without the need of coalition. This could be dangerous for Turkey, for the Justice and Development Party was founded in Islamic doctrines. It has since moved to a more secular platform so as to be in line with the powerful military that regulates all things secular. The party has campaigned as the party that will save the economy and correct the terrible unemployment levels.
The current leading coalition party, led by Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, managed only one percent of the vote and will not even come close to earning a seat in parliament. What makes this especially painful to Ecevit is that these elections were called 18 months earlier than necessary.
The incoming Justice and Development Party has worried some with its Islamic roots, but it has pledged to abide by the strictly secular laws that the Turkish military has enforced since the nation's founding more than 80 years ago.
I can only hope that Turkey remains as the guiding light to Arab democracy. As a overwhelmingly Muslim society, it has embraced secularism and has sought "Western" freedoms. It continues to hold European Union membership as one of its primary goals and it stresses religious freedom above all else. Turkey has been, and should remain, as the leader on the path of Arab states towards Liberal, open states based on freedom, liberty and equality. Turkey proves that Islam and democracy are not incompatable.
Hopefully today's election won't ruin Turkey's path towards greatness and erase the decades of cooperation and support that have come to define the unique position that Turkey holds in the world. With a finger on the pulse of both Europe and the Middle East, Turkey is a crucial partner towards regional peace. Let's hope today's vote is not a move away from the progressive attitude that has helped Turkey thrive, but rather a further step towards a developing peace between Islam and the West.