The bad news for Democrats early on election night, the loss of the gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey, was offset by the news in special congressional races.
In the high profile election in upstate New York, Democrat Bill Owens won a seat in Congress that had been held since 1872 by the Republicans. More significantly, he won after every well known national leader of the GOP’s ultra-right wing showed up in the district to campaign for Bill Hoffman, the Conservative Party candidate. Sarah Palin and the others said the Republican candidate, Dede Scozzafava, was not right wing enough for them. By pushing their extremism too far they effectively forced the “moderate” Republican out of the race and into an alliance with the Democrat.
Shortly after that news was announced, Democrat John Garamendi, who campaigned as an outspoken backer of single-payer health care reform won a huge victory in the race to fill an open congressional seat in northern California. Garamendi had defeated the candidate of the party’s establishment in a primary by drawing attention to his opponent’s ties to the health insurance industry. The person he defeated in that primary, Ellen Tauscher, was one of only a handful of California reps who belonged to the conservative Blue Dog Caucus.
The majority in the House that favors health care reform is now larger than it was before the election, no small victory for progressive forces that have been under attack from the right on this issue for many months.
Some of the saddest news of the evening came with the narrow, but heartbreaking defeat in Maine of a massive effort to preserve gay marriage rights. The message is that lies and fear can still win at the ballot box. However, all across this nation same-sex couples and their families now openly share their stories and their lives with others in a conversation that is transforming the country. Despite hate campaigning, a gay rights measure won in Washington State.
The days when the right wing is able to win a hate campaign at the ballot box are numbered.