The line between local and national party politics was blurred during last Tuesday’s midterm election as Democrats
seized control of both congressional houses, delivering a blow to the 12-year Republican majority. CNN exit polls found that voters, angered by the Bush administration’s policies, cast their ballots based on national rather than local issues. More than 60 percent said national issues influenced their vote the most, while 34 percent said local issues were more important.
“There’s been a lot of concern that the war in Iraq is going very poorly and all the corruption issues, 99 percent of which have been around Republican incumbents,” said Barbara Ferman, a Temple political science professor who specializes in urban politics. “I definitely think that this was a vote on what’s happening nationally.”
In Pennsylvania, that trend played a large role in the way many Temple students
who were interviewed voted.
Senior Jack Posobiec, chairman of Temple College Republicans, said the “successful nationalization” of the issues accounted for Democratic candidate Bob Casey Jr.’s victory over Republican incumbent
Sen. Rick Santorum in one of the most closely watched Senate races in the country.
“I think a lot of people weren’t really paying much attention to Sen. Santorum and what he was doing but just kind of saw the ‘R’ next to his name and voted against him,” said Posobiec, a political science and BTMM double major. For Posobiec, it was the most disappointing race of the election.
“You know, it’s kind of funny, but it’s like a guy who passed away six years ago was just elected senator last Tuesday,” he said. Juan Galeano, a Casey campaign intern, said Santorum’s “crazy positions” ultimately repelled voters.
“There’s a lot of anti-Rick Santorum feeling because of a lot of the things he says,” said Galeano, who is also Temple Student Government’s vice president of Student Affairs.
“I think the Casey campaign did a really good job of … using negative feelings about Rick Santorum against him. It was really
strategic in everything that they were doing.”
Santorum, a staunch conservative, had held the No. 3 position in the Senate Republican leadership. Casey, the state treasurer and son of former Gov. Robert P. Casey, now plans to put raising the minimum wage and finding an exit strategy out of Iraq at the top of his agenda once he assumes office. Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial race also swung in favor of the Democrats. Gov. Ed Rendell, who was up for a second term, easily defeated his Republican opponent Lynn Swann, a former Pittsburgh Steelers football star. Democrats also outseated several incumbent House Republicans.
In the 7th Congressional District, Democratic challenger Joe Sestak defeated GOP Rep. Curt Weldon, a 10-term veteran. In the 10th District, GOP Rep. Don Sherwood lost to Christopher Carney, a Democrat.
Jason Altmire, another Democrat beat out Republican Rep. Melissa Hart in the 4th District. Galeano expressed his jubilation over the new Democratic majority in Congress.
“I’m actually really excited about that because I think that there will be a lot more bipartisanship,” he said. “Bush has to listen to the Democratic views before he could kind of just pass legislation how he wants.”
Posobiec said it was a tough fight and that nobody – even those on the Democratic side – had expected Democrats to win quite so overwhelmingly.
“It wasn’t so much liberalism won as it was conservative Democrats that won,” he said. “For me, I kind of take solace in that fact.”
Deborah Hinchey, president of Temple College Democrats, said that Democrats got their expected referendum on President Bush.
“I feel like he’s very easily going to become a lame duck despite the fact that he only did one veto in the past six years,” she said. “It might end up being quite a bit more before Nancy Pelosi’s done with him.” Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is now the Speaker-elect of the House. The Speaker of the House is third in line to the presidency.
Still, Posobiec contented that President Bush has the ultimate say on any piece of legislation.
“It’s kind of interesting because a lot of people are saying, ‘Oh, we’re going to pull directly out of Iraq and tax cuts for the rich are going to go down,'” he said. “They’ve got a lot of influence because of their big win and they’ve got a big mandate, but they still need to get everything past the president. I think that’s going to be the major turning point on a lot of different issues.”
Students who were interviewed at random said that they either voted Democratic or not at all. Senior biology majors Angie Nieves and Joanna Imle both strongly dislike President Bush and wanted the Republican majority out of power. Nieves, a Democrat registered in Philadelphia, voted. Imle, who is unregistered, did not.
“I didn’t even know the Democrats won,” Imle said, shrugging. “I think that the people that do go out and vote believe that they can make a difference, whereas people like myself who aren’t even registered really don’t see how much of a difference it can make.”
The key issue Nieves voted on was the war in Iraq. She said that Democrats need to “bring the soldiers back from Iraq as well as try to make some important changes as far as taxes – making them more useful as far as giving the moneys back to schools and lower income families.”
Matt Besecker, a freshman political science major, is also a registered Pennsylvania Democrat. He said that though he voted for individual candidates, his vote still worked out to be along party lines. Besecker, whose vote was influenced by immigration issues, taxes and the war, said he wants Democrats to do “just something. Anything, really,” adding that it was going to be an uphill battle.
“Democrats and Republicans are going to fight every step of the way. I think it’s just going to be a stalemate, long and drawn out.”
His friend, Lauren Coutu, a criminal justice major registered in Rhode Island, did not vote, saying, “What’s the difference?”
Ferman said that an overall frustration with the political system instead of apathy may be why some students choose not to vote.
“I think that what we hear most about the political system is all the corruption, and that naturally turns people off,” she said. Hinchey, who said she was shocked by the amount of young voters this year, remained enthusiastic.
“Young people voted this year in record margins,” she said. “It really shows how young people are ready to take control of our country.” But Besecker said that apathy among young people is root of the problem.
“I think our generation’s just completely apathetic towards voting for the most part,” he said. “We’d rather just watch TV and be told what to do rather than actually
do something to change anything.”
Venuri Siriwardane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.