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Laughing Matters

Basking in a win -- and looking forward

In the wake of the Nov. 7 elections, we lefties need to avoid gloating. Now is a time for coming togeth--


Sorry, couldn't help myself. As I was saying, we need to move for--



Ha. Haha.

Hoo boy. OK. Haha! Phew.

A couple weeks ago, I promised that if a certain U.S. Senator Who Shall Not Be Named was defeated at the polls, I'd never write about him again. Since I'm told my pledge was good for about a half-dozen votes from people who just wanted me to shut up, I'm going to keep that promise.

Besides, this election was only partly about stopping any particular politician. It was about stopping a particular kind of politics ... the kind that presumes we voters are dumber than a sack full of hammers.

Locally, the biggest offender was Melissa Hart, of the 4th Congressional District, who refused to face her opponent, Democrat Jason Altmire, in a single debate. Hart clearly didn't take Altmire seriously. But while it's one thing to show contempt for your opponent, refusing to discuss the issues also shows contempt for voters.

In fact, Hart's campaign manager told CP that Hart wouldn't even attend a debate sponsored by the League of Women Voters because ... Altmire had once been a League member.

Yes! I'm telling you! That damn League of Women Voters, with its radical agenda for "revolution now" ... any one of those Democrats-in-Talbot's-clothing could have shown up with a Molotov cocktail beneath her flowered hat!

In eastern Pennsylvania, meanwhile, you had Congressional Rep. Don Sherwood defending the sanctity of marriage by voting against legal status for same-sex couples. Meanwhile, Sherwood was paying a half-million bucks to his ex-lover, in hopes of keeping his own extramarital affair secret.

Sherwood lost too, but unlike a lot of "family values" Republicans, at least he put his money where his mouth was. For years now, college and health-care costs have been rising, while pensions have been disappearing. But though the GOP talks a lot about the sanctity of families, it's done precious little to help the people actually living in them. Republicans gave us ideology instead of effectiveness, and confidence instead of competence.

Sooner or later, voters were bound to notice.

The wingnuts aren't going anywhere, of course, and neither are their "wedge issues." This year, a half-dozen gay-marriage bans passed in state referendums around the country. But the margin for support for such measures has been dwindling, and so has their political effectiveness. In Pennsylvania, the state legislature couldn't agree on a gay-marriage ban of its own this year, even though Republicans control both chambers.

No surprise, then, that ultraconservatives had a hard time turning out that rabid GOP base. In many rural counties, the Senator Who Shall Not be Named didn't just get fewer votes than Bob Casey; he got fewer votes than Lynn Swann, the political neophyte running for governor as a Republican. In counties like Armstrong, Centre, Clearfield and Somerset, thousands of voters supported a nonentity for governor, but couldn't bring themselves to back one of the most conservative senators in the nation.

Democrats didn't have such problems. In many of Pittsburgh's heavily Democratic East End neighborhoods, turnout was one-quarter to one-third higher this year than it was back in 2002, the last non-presidential national election. This despite the fact that Casey is well to the right of them on social issues.

Of course, if votes on issues like abortion came to the floor for a vote, Casey and Altmire would likely disappoint many of those East End voters. And thanks to a crop of more conservative Democrats just like them, Congress is unlikely to take much action on such hot-button issues as gun control. It's not likely to find a good way out of Iraq either, simply because there no longer is one.

Then again, if Pennsylvania's legislature can pass a minimum-wage hike -- and it did, earlier this year -- so can a Democratic Congress. Freed of the obligation to diagnose Terri Schiavo's medical condition on the Senate floor, Congress could even enact some decent immigration reform, and federal assistance on drug costs.

The workers will not be seizing the means of production next year, despite what you'll hear on talk radio. But they have taken back the ballot box. Which isn't bad for a day's work.

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