Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, the health insurance industry heir who went into politics for the purpose of protecting his family's financial interests against even the most tepid federal regulation, is not exactly an expert on the workings of Congress.
But that has not stopped the Tennessee Republican from launching an attack on one of the Senate's most time-honored traditions.
Speaking to the Federalist Society, the conservative legal affairs group that has become the nation's premier proponent of judicial activism, Frist lashed out against Democrats who threaten to use filibusters to block corrupt, incompetent or ideologically extreme nominees for federal judgeships.
Earlier this week, I wrote about some small but sweet election victories which progressives should be celebrating. I ended by asking readers to send me victories they believed were worth highlighting. The response was overwhelming. Please read a selection of the letters below. Many thanks to all those who took the time to write and apologies to those whose good letters we weren't able to include.
In Minnesota 13 new Democrats were elected to the House of Representatives. This sharp increase in Democratic representation came about because of voter opposition to the failure of the Republican-controlled House to pass a bonding bill to fund much-needed road and higher education construction; cuts in education, welfare, and health care funding; and passage of conceal/carry gun laws, gay marriage, and regressive school standards, all driven by Republican House members' pledges to not raise taxes. Given this voter mandate, the new legislature will no longer be able to use religious right issues to mask having to deal with declining education, welfare, and health care funding.
Richard Beach, Minneapolis, MN
Here in North Carolina, we elected our first openly gay member of the General Assembly. Democrat Julia Boseman, a former New Hanover County (Southeastern part of state) Commissioner, will represent that county in the North Carolina Senate.
B.J. Eversole, Wilmington, NC
The Los Angeles City Council unanimously adopted the nation's most aggressive anti-sweatshop ordinance by a unanimous vote after two years of lobbying by local unions, sweatshop workers, clergy and activists.
Tom Hayden, Los Angeles, CA
Colorado replaced the Republican State Legislature (both houses) with a Democratic legislature (both houses.)
Corlyn Seifer, Littleton, CO
Bucking national trends, one third of the Dean Dozens candidates won their respective races at the national, state, and local levels.
Corinne Marasco, Kingstowne, VA
In the category of small but important victories, we should include the election of Bob Hasegawa to the Washington State House of Representatives.
Hasegawa was for nine years the principal officer of Teamsters Local 174, the largest trucking local in the Northwest, following several years as head of the State Teamsters for Democratic Union. During the WTO demonstrations in Seattle, perhaps a majority of the Teamsters in the "Teamsters and Turtles" garb were from his local. He's a long-time leader in the progressive and Asian-American communities.
What's significant about Hasegawa's victory, beyond his background and politics, is that he's determined not to just be another "good vote." He plans to use his position to develop a popular movement in his largely working-class district. He hopes to hold meetings throughout the area to develop a "people's legislative agenda" that reflects the wants and needs of his constituents.
Paul Bigman, Seattle, WA
In Massachusetts, Democrats picked up three seats in the legislature despite the Republican governor's attempt to promote conservative and anti-gay marriage lawmakers.
Victoria Fowlre, Boston, MA
Here in the Central Valley of California we elected a Democratic State Senator against the endorsement of Governor Schwarzenegger and major money from the large land developers. In Yolo County we pay a lot of attention to preservation of farm land and the prevention of sprawl so common in other places in California. Even though the campaign got nasty, the Democrat prevailed. In fact, the Governor lost every one of the candidates he backed, further proof that Californians may register Republican but when it comes to voting they go moderate or Democrat.
Martie Dote, Woodland, CA
A small bit of good news from Massachusetts: A very progressive Democrat just won a seat on the Governor's Council, the body that signs off on (or blocks) judicial appointments. Peter Vickery beat out better funded Democrats in the primary, and a substantially more well-funded Independent in the general election. Given that the conservative Democrats and the Republicans in Massachusetts want to get the gay marriage decision overturned, this is actually a pretty important victory.
Joe Gabriel, Northampton, MA
Oregonians defeated a Tort reform bill that would have put a cap on jury awards for medical liability. The proponents said this change would lower our medical insurance premiums, but Oregonians voted (narrowly) against it. This is in-line with the recent Nation article about Tort reform in Texas. The country needs insurance reform and we hope Oregon can be an example.
Bill Ziebell, Central Point, Oregon
Cincinnati voters overturned an 11 year charter amendment that prohibited city officials from passing any laws aimed at protecting gay and lesbian people.
William P. Fleischmann, Plymouth, MI
Small (and not so small) victories in Red State Colorado: We not only replaced an outgoing Republican Senator and House member with Democrats but also reclaimed both the State House and Senate for the first time in 40+ years. In addition we defeated the Republican governor's request to overhaul the State personnel system by 61 percent to 39 percent and approved a referendum requiring the phase-in of renewable energy by 53 percent to 47 percent. In the Denver Metro area we passed a large light rail/mass transit funding initiative by 57 percent to 42 percent and extended funding for scientific and cultural facilities by an overwhelming margin. The vast majority of school tax and bond issues passed.
Andy Stone, Wheat Ridge, CO
I am a middle aged woman and this is the first time that I got deeply involved in activism. I have always been a Democrat but this year I was very active in the Fairfax County Democratic Party. I was very passionate about the Bush Administration being voted out of office. I took election day off from work and I worked as a Democratic Poll Watcher.
Another bright light is that Kerry won Fairfax County--the largest in Virginia. This is the first time in 40 years that a Democrat has won Fairfax County. He won by a 6 percent margin.
Susan Kent, Springfield, VA
Democrats in Iowa gained 5 seats in the State Senate so that it is now split evenly with Republicans.
Carlo Veltri, Cedar Falls, IA
My younger brother, Commissioner Todd Portune, Democrat, was re-elected by a large majority in heavily conservative Hamilton County, Ohio. (You may recall that this area of the Buckeye State, which includes the city of Cincinnati, once took its own art museum to court for daring to exhibit Robert Mapplethorpe's work.)
In this repressive atmosphere, Todd has managed to stay true to his progressive ideas and goals, and yet somehow become the first Democrat elected to his post in over 35 years. His is a voice of intelligence, compassion, tolerance and reason in a county which has for too long advocated none of the above. And he has succeeded in appealing to voters on both sides of the political fence, an accomplishment to which our party should aspire on a national level.
Bob Portune Cresskill, NJ
Seventeen-term Illinois Republican Rep. Phil Crane was defeated by progressive Democrat Melissa Bean. Crane had a 0 percent lifetime AFL-CIO voting record. Bean's major criticism of Crane was that he had grown complacent and had failed to change with the times and stand up for working people. She cited as prime examples his voting to cut student loans, allowing exploratory oil drilling on Lake Michigan and supporting privatization of Social Security.
Crane fought back, calling his opponent out about not living in the district, claiming Bean would raise taxes if elected and saying she flip-flopped in support of the Bush tax plan. He failed to make the usual Republican attacks stick to Bean.
Dennis Barker, Collinsville, IL
In Maine, Green Independent John Eder was redistricted into a Democratic incumbent's district for the State House of Representatives in an effort to defeat the Green presence in Augusta. It didn't work as Eder won 55 percent of the vote in a three-way race. Democrats ought to learn from this. Gerrymandering in Maine is just as wrong as it is in Texas.
Daniel Jenkins, Timonium MD
Here in Portland, progressive Democrat Tom Potter, who was endorsed by Howard Dean, won the mayoral race by a large margin.
Anthony Johnson, Portland OR
In Utah (despite giving Bush an incredible 70 percent of its votes) there were some small victories (perhaps one not so small). We now have a county governor who is a Democrat and all three "at large" county council seats are held by Democrats as well.
Also, Jim Matheson managed to hang on to his Congressional seat despite a nasty campaign run by his Republican opponent.
Minor victories to be sure; however, in a state like Utah, believe me, every little victory is a sweet blessing.
Valerie Heath-Harrison, Kearns UT
In the postelection world, holding evangelical Protestantism up to the light has become all the rage, which does seem somewhat like shutting the barn door after the horse has left the barn.
It's impossible to pinpoint any single factor that determined the Democrats' defeat on election day, but a significant disadvantage that is going unremarked in the discussion of "God," "gays" and
Of all the loathsome spectacles we've endured since November 2--the vampire-like gloating of CNN commentator Robert Novak, Bush embracing his "mandate"--none are more repulsive than that of Democ
"A little patience, and we shall see the reign of witches pass over, their spells dissolve, and the people, recovering their true sight, restore their government to its true principles. It is true that in the meantime we are suffering deeply in spirit, and incurring the horrors of a war and long oppressions of enormous public debt. But If the game runs sometimes against us at home we must have patience till luck turns, and then we shall have an opportunity of winning back the principles we have lost, for this is a game where principles are at stake."
--Thomas Jefferson, June 4, 1798, in a letter to John Taylor after passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts.
This article, from the November, 17 1984, issue of The Nation, is a special selection from The Nation Digital Archive. If you want to read everything The Nation has ever published on presidential politics, click here for information on how to acquire individual access to the Archive--an electronic database of every Nation article since 1865.