The most critical thing at stake in this year’s midterm American elections was the possibility of control of the US Congress changing hands. Democrats in the House of Representatives capitalized on their best chance in 12 years, winning back a majority from President Bush’s Republican Party. House Democrats succeeded in gaining the 15 seats required for them to take back the chairmanships of important committees that set the agenda for passage of virtually all Federal US legislative action. Several of those committees will be chaired by veteran African-American Democratic politicians. In the Senate, a Democratic takeover, while not unrealistic, was seen as more difficult to accomplish.
In two key Senate races, African-American candidates in Maryland and Tennessee lost their election bids. Republican Michael Steele lost to Maryland Democrat Benjamin Cardin, and Tennessee Democrat Harold Ford, Junior was defeated by Republican Bob Corker. Political Science Professor Carol Swain of Tennessee’s Vanderbilt University sees some complex trends this year that have belied African-Americans’ traditional allegiance to the Democratic party. Professor Swain tells VOA English to Africa reporter Howard Lesser that the race factors of several candidates may have had an intricate impact on the outcome of several contests.
“I think that there are some black Democrats endorsing the Republicans. And so it seems like race is trumping partisanship, and that there are some blacks that are saying that they are tired of Democrats taking them for granted,” she says.
Did black defections or low African-American voter turnout help cause the defeat of Tennessee Democratic Senate candidate Harold Ford or the loss of Maryland Republican Senate candidate Michael Steele? It’s too early to say, since it’s clear that other factors like the war in Iraq, nationwide disaffection with Congressional influence peddling, President Bush’s declining popularity, and other issues also seem to have affected this year’s outcomes. But Professor Swain says the victory by another African-American candidate, Democrat Deval Patrick, the newly elected Governor of Massachusetts, and the Democrats regaining control of the House of Representatives do represent signifcant gains for African-American interests.
“There are several blacks, Charlie Rangel, John Conyers, to become full committee chairs, and a number of others would be chairing subcommittees, and so they would eventually have quite a bit of influence,” she says.
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