It was a slow sickness. A growing nausea that gripped MSU’s Democratic community as the election returns slid deeper into nightfall. Many, assuring themselves of a win, stayed up far after dark only to watch networks’ campaign maps bleed an alarming red, as Bush swept up the country’s electoral votes at a stunning rate. The deathblow would come Wednesday morning when Sen. Kerry called the White House to officially concede the race.
For most Democrat’s the news came as a bitter surprise. Hopes had been high leading into the election with large turnout traditionally favoring the party. So many did not want to believe their eyes as election totals rolled in.
“I was shocked,” English doctorial student Lauren Mason said. “I really believed it was going to be a landslide.” Mason was convinced that this election had whipped the Democratic party into a fervor. She thought that the “get out the vote” efforts had increased the role of the party enough to secure a victory.
She was not alone. Throughout Tuesday afternoon, bloggers and pundits alike flooded the Internet with dire predictions for the GOP. They based their claims on the stories of the long lines that clogged polling locations around the country. Despite the spin however, a truly divided nation served up truly divided results. The country split with 51 percent of the popular vote going for President Bush and 48 percent for Sen. John Kerry.
The Democrats’ dream was denied far more than just the presidency. The Republican Party, in an election sweep, retained control of both the House and the Senate. This, along with the threat of new Supreme Court appointments, ensure a Republican dominated government for at least the next two years. The specter of unopposed G.O.P. control scares some students more than Bush’s reelection.
“Who in this government is going to look out for the average person,” inter-disciplinary sophomore, Naomi Glogower said. “I’m disturbed by the portent this will have on women’s rights.” Glogower, visibly shaking with anger, said she felt adamant that any justice appointed by Bush would work to overturn Roe v. Wade. “The country should be for the people not for the president’s buddies,” Glogower said.
More than one Democratic student expressed disappointment in the actions of their fellow Americans. What was most surprising to many was the turnout rate among voters age 18-30. According to a CNN report, the percentage of young voters in this election was the same as it had been in 2000, a low 17 percent. “I really thought our age group would have a huge impact on the election,” packaging junior Joe Rotonda said. While there may have been a larger turnout of young voters than in 2000, there may have been more people at the polls in general, keeping the percentage at only 17.
Rotonda had recently been at a Rock the Vote rally in Madison, Wisc., where he had been overwhelmed by the large number of students representing both sides. He too was concerned by the prospect of a Republican dominated government. Rotonda said that it was important for the Democrats to reach across the aisle in a spirit of cooperation. He had been one of the rare Democratic students to support Kerry’s conceding of the race before the last of Ohio’s provisional ballots had been counted. “What’s important now is unity, a lot more can be accomplished through compromise.” Rotonda said.
The loss of the White House was compounded for local Democrats by the passing of proposal 2. The proposal, an amendment to Michigan’s constitution defining marriage or any similar union as only between a man and a woman, was bitterly contested by the most of the Democratic Party. Still, in a state that went for Kerry, and elected a majority of Democrats to state government offices, the measure passed 60 percent to 40. The proposal was seen by many as an election year ploy to draw attention away from bigger issues like the war and economy. The proposal was defeated in only two counties, our own Ingham and Washtenaw, home to Ann Arbor. This “issue voting” may be a large part of Bush’s re-election success. One example of such a party split may be found with English sophomore Nathaniel Janick. A self-described fiscal conservative, Janick said he voted Democratic in all cases except for president. For that office he voted for Bush. “I didn’t think Kerry was solid on any issues,” Janick said.
Not all is lost. The energy that transfused the Democratic Party did not vanish entirely on November 3. Many Democratic students are already looking forward to helping the Party win the 30 congressional seats up for grabs in 2006. Adam Wilkinson, a political science major at LCC, worked for both Move On PAC and the Democratic National Committee during the election. He said that this election only cemented in him the great need to continue to get out the vote. Wilkinson was a precinct leader for the Committee. Among other things, he helped arrange rides for registered Democrats to the polls. “There will be a lot of questions that will need to be answered in the next two years,” he said. “Who are we going to blame when things go wrong?”
Reflecting on the day’s events, and hopes for the future, Wilkinson was able to find some dark humor in the election results. “Eventually Rome must fall, and with what we have now…let’s just leave it at that.”

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