She Said - The Changing Political Landscape...

On Tuesday, November 7th, Washington finally heard the message loud and clear from a nation thoroughly disgusted with six years of one party controlling both the House and Senate. It also condemned a president determined to ignore the will of the people on such major issues as the war in Iraq and the economy. Voters registered their objections to the Bush administration pandering to special interest groups and moving the country more and more to the right and further and further away from the democratic principles on which this country was founded.
The election results registered both a stunning blow to the Grand Ole Party (GOP) and a need for change and accountability that affects both major parties. The Bush administration will now have to work to find common middle ground with a Democrat- controlled House and Senate. The GOP has, in the president’s words, been given a “thumpin”. The day after the election, he went back to the words of his 2000 presidential victory speech and promised to be “a uniter, not a divider” in his last two terms. One has to wonder what happened to this promise in the first six years! The reality is that he is now forced to work with the Democrats. This is uncharted territory for a President used to both houses simply providing a rubber stamp.
President Bush announced that the man loathed by so many, a man even the top US military brass had wanted out, Donald Rumsfeld, was history. Expect more shake-ups as Bush and company stumble to figure out what to do next—all the time knowing they now have to be accountable to a Democratic House and Senate, not to mention the American people and their vote for change on Election Day.
It’s a time-honored rule of politics that over time the voters of a democratic country will always return to middle common ground. The beauty of the election results is that for the next two years, under the leadership of Nancy Pelosi in the Senate and Harry Reid in the House, all parties will have to work together to get anything done, and the White House will have to work with them. Neither side can afford to get too comfortable. The presidential elections are a mere two years away and the American people will give the White House to the party they see as having done the best job responding to the mandate and message their vote sent to Washington via the ’06 midterm elections.
The Democrats now have a unique opportunity to show the American people (including the LGBT community) that they can govern. Pelosi (is the first female House speaker and considered the most liberal senator in the capital, one with “San Francisco values”) told CNN: “Democrats are ready to lead, prepared to govern, and absolutely willing to work in a bipartisan way.” She has also listed as an immediate priority: implementing all 9/11 Commission recommendations on national security; raising the minimum wage to $7.25; eliminating corporate subsidies for oil companies; allowing the government to negotiate Medicare drug prices; imposing new restrictions on lobbyists; cutting interest rates on college loans; and supporting embryonic stem cell research. If the Democrats can make good on these promises, they have a real chance of winning the White House in 2008.
Hopefully the Republicans have finally realized that dividing the country along very conservative lines and pandering to their ever-more-secluded base (including the religious right) is not acceptable to the electorate. The Democrats’ victory also unofficially puts an end to the religious right’s “mandate” to expect automatic and absolute control of moral issues throughout the country in return for the role they played in Bush’s victory in 2004. In essence the election also reconfirmed the constitutional separation of church and state. This can only be good for the country.
For the LGBT community, the election results may be, in the words of Joshua Lynsen from the Washington Blade “more of a mixed bag for gay rights supporters than many originally thought.” He explained that “at least 13 of 50 newly elected House and Senate Democrats oppose same-sex marriage, with two of those backing constitutional amendments to ban such unions.” On the brighter side, “Forty-two incoming Democrats oppose a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage”.
Samantha Smoot, political director of the Human Rights Campaign, said of the new Congress, “We have some very progressive new members. We also have some very conservative new members . . . There are a number of Democrats who are not necessarily with us on most issues at this time, so we have our work cut out for us, even though Congress is now in the hands of fair-minded leaders.”
The situation in Missouri for LGBT folks is even more uncertain in terms of achieving any real progress in the next two years. Two of the seats Missouri Democrats picked up in the state Senate were filled by Democrats who supported issues pushed by Republicans, including gun rights, banning same-sex marriage, and voting against the Equal Rights Amendment in 2001. To balance this, in the state Senate, Jolie Justus will take her seat as an openly gay woman who has promised to fight for equal rights for all during her time in Jefferson City.
In Kansas City, the LGBT community in 2007 will lose a staunch allie when Mayor Kay Barnes leaves office. The next mayor of Kansas City will in all likelihood be a Democrat. Whether or not he or she meets the needs and concerns of LGBT constituents remains to be seen. That is why it is important that the mayoral candidates hear from LGBT voters in the lead up to the election and that we make our presence felt.
The next two years before the presidential elections are critical for us. We must not give up hope in the fight for our rights and our political agenda. There is room for our voices in this time of compromise and finding middle ground as long as we make sure we are heard at all levels of government. The fight is not lost, even though things are not as positive as we had assumed on election night.
Gaby Vice is a Kansas City local. She lives with her partner Sindy, their two cats and one spoilt dog. She can be contacted at

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