WASHINGTON — 2006 was the year the people of the United States went to the polls and voted to end right-wing Republican majority control of the House, Senate and Statehouses across the nation. Led by the AFL-CIO and its allies, the Nov. 7 midterm election was a sweeping rejection of the war in Iraq and the rest of the Bush-Cheney corporate right-wing agenda.
It was the biggest electoral victory over the ultra-right in a generation. Removed was a long roster of Republican rogues and neo-con demagogues, starting with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. His fantasy, shared by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, of U.S. global hegemony enforced by unilateral, pre-emptive war, terror, torture and “extraordinary rendition” was rejected resoundingly. Even voters in so-called “red states” broke with the Republican right, defeating Republicans and electing moderate or liberal Democrats instead.
Karl Rove’s bag of tricks, so potent in the 2002 and 2004 elections, was empty this Nov. 7. None of the GOP’s well-worn “wedge issues” resonated. Voters were unmoved by Republican pleas that only they could protect the nation from “terrorists,” “illegal immigrants,” “gay marriage” “abortions” and other “threats.”
Not even crass exploitation of tragedy worked for the Republican right in 2006. Both Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum made grandstand appeals to keep Terri Schiavo connected to life support. They joined House Majority Leader Tom DeLay in calling Congress into special session to keep Schiavo on the ventilator.
Now, Frist has been forced to end his 2008 presidential bid. Santorum was dumped by outraged Pennsylvania voters. DeLay is facing possible jail time.
What resonated, instead of Republican spin, was headlines exposing Washington as an open sewer of corporate corruption under their rule. Bush and Cheney’s tight crony ties to Iraq war profiteer Halliburton and other corporations emerged as a hot issue. The corruption and incompetence were on display in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 when Bush and the GOP-majority Congress abandoned majority-Black New Orleans while showering no-bid Gulf Coast reconstruction contracts on Halliburton. By 2006, New Orleans was still abandoned.
In 2006, lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty and testified on his corrupt ties to scores of Republican senators and representatives. Bush’s chief of procurement, David H. Safavian, pleaded guilty and went to jail for his links to Abramoff. Ohio’s Rep. Bob Ney, openly bribed by Abramoff, is facing jail time. Montana’s Sen. Conrad Burns, who accepted more than $160,000 in Abramoff bribes, was ousted from office.
2006 was the year that more than 1 million marched for immigrant rights, including legalization and a “path to citizenship” for millions of undocumented workers. The movement erupted seemingly from nowhere after Republican Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), chair of the House Judiciary Committee, introduced legislation that would criminalize these workers and their families and even those who provide health care, education, or other assistance for them. In the Nov. 7 election, voters ousted racist lawmakers who took the lead in the criminalization of immigrants. And Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) replaces Sensenbrenner as chair of Judiciary.
It was the year that South Dakota voters beat back that state’s anti-woman law, and now Rep. Nancy Pelosi will make history when she is sworn in as the first woman speaker of the House.
2006 was the year that the death toll of U.S. soldiers in Iraq pushed near to 3,000 and the number of terribly wounded surpassed 20,000. On April 29, half a million marched down Broadway in New York, led by active duty soldiers and military families, to demand an end to the war and that the troops brought home.
When the people joined together at the ballot box and said, “Enough” to the war, corruption, cronyism, racism and incompetence, 2006 became a watershed year. The labor movement and its allies made political gains with long-lasting implications. But 2006 was also the year that this movement hit the ground running — after the elections — continuing to push and mobilize for its independent, working families, peace and civil rights agenda.
Indeed, what a year!
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