GOP Swept Away

Random Lengths News | November 8, 2006
Nancy Pelosi will become America’s first female Speaker of the House, as Democrats scored a sweeping national victory on November 7, gaining approximately 30 seats in the House and six in the Senate—two by razor thin margins that still may be challenged. Recounts are a distinct possibility in half a dozen House races as well.

Pelosi promised that the Democrats "intend to lead the most honest, the most open and the most ethical Congress in history."

A rash of Republican robocalls designed to depress turnout (see sidebar, “Voter Suppression,� p. x.) may have spelled the difference in saving half a dozen or so nailbiters for the GOP, while more pervasive voter suppression tactics possibly saved four GOP seats in Ohio—though recounts are still possible.

Democratic majorities in Congress were matched by majorities in the number of governors and state legislatures as well. Democrats now claim 28 governors—picking up six—with two still undecided. They won new majorities in at least nine legislative bodies—the farm teams for Congress—including both houses in New Hampshire and Iowa. It was the first time Democrats controlled New Hampshire’s House since 1922. Democrats also beat both New Hampshire’s Congressmembers, as anti-war challenger Carol Shea-Porter won a surprise victory with little national support.

Although Democrats picked up seats across the country, from Florida to Kansas to California, most came in an arc from the Northeast to the Midwest. In addition to New Hampshire, Democrats gained one seat in Connecticut, three in New York, four in Pennsylvania, one in Ohio, three in Indiana, one each in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and two in Iowa. Several more remain too close to call.

Geographically, San Pedro is far from that concentrated cluster of battleground districts. But that hardly means that local activists are uninvolved. The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) has a creative, forward-looking, and aggressive strategy of looking for places where it can help promote change in the face of Congress, according to Legislative Director Pete Peyton. This includes going into districts in states like Arizona and North Carolina where demographic changes or job losses show the emerging possibility of a cohesive labor vote—not necessarily in the current election. It also means going in early and giving support to promising candidates who others have overlooked. And it means just being smart in general about picking fights it can win.

The Beltway conventional wisdom says that the wave of new Democratic House members, coming from swing districts, will necessarily be more conservative, concerned about holding marginal districts in the next election. But the combination of looking for changing trends, and making allies early can produce surprising results.

“Were looking for trending area, where, when we get new people running, so we can support them, then they become our allies for life,� Peyton told Random Lengths. “You need to be with people on the ground floor, when they’re coming up.�

A forward-looking strategy often means losing for a cycle or two, before becoming truly competitive. But not this time.

“When I last reviewed where we put our money, just about every race we went into is even at worst in terms of where they are in polling,� Peyton said, just days before the election. “We took some long shots like the [Jerry] McNerney race up near Sacramento,� he said, referring to the Democrat’s sole pickup in California ousting Republican Richard Pombo. “We were the earliest group that went into that race. The D-triple-C [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee—DCCC] didn’t go into it,� he said, with some satisfaction.

“There was a lot of people who said. ‘What are you doing here?’ We came in and it gave him some national recognition. He’s pulled even. The D-triple-C never thought they had a shot in it. Those are the things that make you feel good.�

In fact, McNerney is a grassroots progressive, who ran against Pombo in 2004. Sensing a better chance this year, the DCCC handpicked a more conservative candidate, whom McNerney defeated in the primary. The DCCC then abandoned the district, sending the message they considered McNerney’s candidacy a lost cause.

Contempt for homegrown progressive candidates (such as New Hampshire’s Shea-Porter) has been a sore spot with local activists across the country this year. But even in losing such candidates have left a mark. Locally, Marcy Winograd’s primary challenge to Jane Harman produced a noticeable shift in Harman’s stance on Iraq, and brought about a more confrontational stance towards the Bush Administration generally.

“It think it was effective to launch a challenge. We see the effect of this challenge in contests across the country,� Winograd said. The result is a growing “understanding that the Democratic Party needs to be accountable to its voters and not just its base, but a majority of the American people,� she added.

As for what comes next, now that the election is over, “I just think the country is at a crossroads.,� Winograd says. “It’s polarized, but not as much as a couple of years ago. I think it’s very important that we embrace the New Deal, that we not allow the Republicans to chip away at it.�

More specifically, “Let’s bring on the impeachment hearing, and let’s reverse that torture bill,� she said, “less we be living in a 1984 world.�

Peace activist Chris Venn, of San Pedro Neighbors for Peace and Justice is less confident in elected Democrats. “I paid a price for my opposition to the war in Vietnam. I have close friends and neighbors who were wounded and killed under a Democratic Administration in the name of the fight for peace,� Venn said.

“I think the most important thing to come out of this election is a strong independent voice for peace,� Venn explained. “A factor in getting to the point we are now, is the good sense of the American people in seeing the war for what it is, despite the onslaught of corporate-owned media.�

Random Lengths News

Founded in 1979 as a counterbalance to the conservative, corporate- owned daily paper, Random Lengths News draws on the rich history of the Los Angeles Harbor Area. The name harkens back to a description of the lumber that used to...
More »
Contact for Reprint Rights
  • Market Served: Metropolitan Area
  • Address: 1300 S. Pacific Ave., San Pedro, CA 90731
  • Phone: (310) 519-1442