What is a one-word description for an anti-war Democrat? "Winner."
Despite all the attempts to spin Tuesday's election results as something else, the single most important message to take away from the voting is this: The American people cast their ballots against the Bush administration's approach to the war in Iraq Tuesday.
Pro-war Republican majorities in the House and Senate were upset.
And the standout successes were those of Democrats who ran on explicitly anti-war platforms. It wasn't just apparent winner Jim Webb, the former Republican who switched parties because of his anger over the war and ran against pro-war Virginia Republican Senator George Allen. It wasn't just Sherrod Brown, a leading House critic of the war, who beat Ohio Republican Senator Mike DeWine. It wasn't just Jon Tester, the Montana Democrat who won his primary after taking a strong anti-war position and went on to distinguish himself in the fall campaign by opposing the occupation that Republican incumbent Conrad Burns supported.
The most dramatic anti-war wins came in races that most media was not even following. Consider the contest in the 1st district of New Hampshire. Democrat Carol Shea-Porter had little name recognition, little money, few high-profile endorsements and almost no support from the national party for her campaign.
What Shea-Porter had was her anti-war stance, and grassroots volunteers who were attracted by the opportunity to support someone who pulled no punches when it came to challenging the Bush administration. In 2005, when President Bush came to the New Hampshire city of Portsmouth, Shea-Porter showed up wearing a T-shirt that read "Turn your back on Bush." She was removed from the event.
Her response was to run for Congress against popular Republican incumbent Jeb Bradley. And her issue was the war. "The United States must physically leave, abandon our 'lone wolf' approach, and work with other nations to stabilize Iraq," she said.
Shea-Porter didn't stop there. "Americans have spent billions on this unnecessary war only to see tragedy, fraud, and waste," the Democrat argued. "We must determine what went wrong to lead us into the war and provide taxpayers with a strict accounting of the spending. We must prosecute any companies who stole from us and we should then continue this fiscal oversight of our money as we finance the repairs of the war damage in Iraq."
Many national Democrats quietly argued that Shea-Porter and other explicitly anti-war candidates -- such as Zack Space, who won a Republican seat in Ohio, and John Yarmuth, who upset Republican Congresswoman Anne Northrup in Kentucky -- were too aggressive in their criticism of the president's military misadventure.
On Tuesday, however, the anti-war message won.
In New Hampshire, Shea-Porter prevailed over Bradley by a 52-48 margin. It was a close win, to be sure. But it was a win that few if any Democratic strategists or political pundits anticipated. And it was a win that could be attributed to one factor: the willingness of Carol Shea-Porter to run hard and strong against a bad war and the president who started it.
John Nichols' new book, THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT: The Founders' Cure for Royalism is being published this month by The New Press. "With The Genius of Impeachment," writes David Swanson, co-founder of the AfterDowningStreet.org coalition, "John Nichols has produced a masterpiece that should be required reading in every high school and college in the United States." Studs Terkel says: "Never within my nonagenarian memory has the case for impeachment of Bush and his equally crooked confederates been so clearly and fervently offered as John Nichols has done in this book. They are after all our public SERVANTS who have rifled our savings, bled our young, and challenged our sanity. As Tom Paine said 200 years ago to another George, a royal tramp: 'Bugger off!' So should we say today. John Nichols has given us the history, the language and the arguments we will need to do so." The Genius of Impeachment can be found at independent bookstores and at www.amazon.com