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November 20, 2002

The Battle Is Over! Now To Exact The Peace!

John W. Ashbury

You know the election season is over for a lot of reasons, The signs are mostly gone. And the bickering has begun.

But what does the future hold for us? It isnít very clear at the moment. However, one thing is obvious. Both major parties must change dramatically, or we are in for a sea change in just two short years.

At the local Democratic Party "Victory Rally" at the Independent Hose Company on Election Night, a member of the State Central Committee, while looking over the results, commented: "Now we have to get really mean." The response came quickly: "How could you get much meaner?"

Expectations had been high. It looked for all the world that at least two more Democrats would be elected to the countyís General Assembly delegation, and possibly three. Sue Hecht had run an aggressive campaign to unseat State Senator Alex Mooney. Galen Clagett and Dick Zimmerman looked especially strong in the District 3A House of Delegates race. And Lisa Baugher, who had waged nearly a one-woman fight against Duke Energyís plans for a power plan near Point of Rocks, campaigned door-to-door throughout District 3B.

Only Mr. Clagett was successful, leaving the delegation as before - seven Republicans and a lone Democrat.

Democrats did pick up a seat on the Board of County Commissioners. But Bruce Reeder, while a staunch Democrat, is from the conservative wing of the party which does not adhere to the more radical rantings of some party leaders - both locally and nationally.

It has been obvious for some time that Frederick County was becoming increasingly conservative Republican. It started long before the Gingrich revolution in Washington in 1994. Gains in party registration have been slow, but steady. And President Clinton, whose peccadilloes left a bad taste in the mouths of many in our county, didnít help the Democrats reverse the trend.

Now, despite the lessons of history, Republicans have taken control of both houses of Congress. The House majority increased by four votes and the Senate will be controlled by at least two votes, with the possibility of a third, depending on the outcome of the run-off election in Louisiana on December 7.

Republicans picked up seats in both houses of the General Assembly, but far from having any real impact, although they will have the strongest voice in Governor-elect Bob Ehrlich. Marylandís Constitution makes the governor the most powerful in the country. He controls the budget absolutely.

But now comes the real contest. On the national scene Republicans must either put up or shut up. They must complete their agenda without ticking off too many of their constituents and without driving a wedge further into the wounds that separate them from Democrats.

They must move slowly away from the hard-line conservative positions that rankle more moderate Republicans and which stir extraordinary passion in their Democratic rivals. They must be patient. They must cajole and compromise, not on their core principles, but on the major issues that face all Americans - both Democrat and Republican.

President George W. Bush is wildly popular in many circles. That was proved beyond any doubt by the election results. He campaigned heartily for weeks, visiting 23 states in support of Republican candidates. However, he has a political strategist in Karl Rove, who is certain to understand that with the shift of a few thousand votes in several key states, the Democrats would still control the U.S. Senate, and perhaps even the House of Representatives.

The President will get a great many of his judicial appointments through the Senate now. And if he completely fills all the vacancies before the 2004 election, his influence on the national scene will remain huge for decades.

He must be careful, though. Earl Warren was considered to be one of the most conservative of governors ever in California when he was nominated by President Dwight Eisenhower to be Chief Justice. And we all know that the court he headed made more law than any in history.

The Democrats face similar problems of direction. Their start doesnít bode well. The election of Nancy Pelosi, the daughter and sister of two former mayors of Baltimore, as minority leader in the House of Representatives will be a real test for liberal policies. She represents most of San Francisco and her votes over the past 15 years in Congress would suggest that she has supported those issues which have brought about this most recent revolution in national leadership - the opposite of the intended purpose.

This country is divided almost equally along philosophical lines. The hard-line conservatives and the left-wing liberals donít represent the mainstream any longer. Our citizenry is becoming far too sophisticated and well informed. We can see through the smoke and mirrors better than ever before, and all too frequently we donít like what we see.

What is happening in Frederick City is a prime example. The mayor has allowed her personal agenda to cloud what is best for the citizens. She promised an "open door" government and what we got was a locked closet. She promised "no back-room deals," and what we got was more of what she complained about during her campaign. The only thing missing is the cigar smoke.

We want our leaders to do their best to improve our lives, whether it be by protecting our national interests, or filling in that pothole that sent us for a wheel alignment again and again.

It all should boil down to the infliction of common sense upon the minds of all our leaders, whether they be local or national.

The direction of both parties must move toward the center. We will no longer tolerate the extremes. We can see the results in foreign countries where extremists rule. We donít want that here.

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