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From the Editor

Elections and pundits

"Politicians Sweep Midterm Elections," read the headline on The Onion's Web site on November 8. Given the rightful joy with which progressive activists greeted the results of the midterms, the jibe might seem a trifle cynical. After all, the shift in power in the House and Senate marks a culmination of months of growing anger with the Bush administration and its domestic allies. Bullheadedness on the needless war in Iraq, the wholesale auction of our natural resources, the stripping of environmental protection and women's rights and habeas corpus, all of it with an eye toward the next quarter's profits – all this has provoked revulsion in a growing number of Americans across the political spectrum.

But the satirists at The Onion have a point.

Environmentalists will enjoy greater influence in the 110th Congress than in the 109th, there's no doubt about it. The ousting of Richard Pombo alone is cause for celebration among enviros. And many people, regardless of party affiliation, are breathing a sigh of relief that one party no longer controls all three branches of the federal government.

Still, we'd best not sustain that sigh of relief for too long.

The election victory of November 2006 belongs to progressives. Progressives mobilized to put alternative candidates such as Ned Lamont into the limelight, showing that a person could espouse views markedly left of what passes for center these days and still win primaries. Progressives staffed phone banks, campaign tables, and envelope-stuffing parties. Progressives wrote on their blogs and to their local newspapers to spread the word about the issues.

And yet predictably, the pundits are seizing on a few strategic races in midwestern states to claim that what propelled the Democrats to victory was a rightward shift.

This is flat out wrong. Democrats didn't shift toward Bush's Iraq policy, nor toward cronyism and looting, pharmaceutical companies' profiteering, or big oil setting federal policy. If anything, the opposition gained by engaging in a little opposition.

But the punditry is powerful, and as a result we in the environmental movement cannot let our guards down. The notion that running to the right wins elections is a persistent one. And as the public's attention is drawn by terrorism, the war, the economy, and the scandal du jour, Democratic representatives and senators may decide they can compromise on environmental protection to advance more prominent aspects of their legislative agendas.

We can't let them do that. Politics is more than just elections; we've gotta speak up the other 364 days of the year as well. The corporate pressures that drive GOP policy are fully capable of influencing liberal Democrats as well. Whether your representative or senator is Republican, Democratic, or independent, they need to hear from you regularly. Otherwise, the conventional wisdom about rightward-shifting Democrats will become a reality.

graphic of Chris Clarke's signature


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