The Week

by The Dartmouth Editorial Board | 11/8/02 6:00am

Election Lessons

Hanover voters participated in two congressional elections Tuesday that, in many ways, mirrored trends at polling stations across the country.

In the House race, incumbent Charlie Bass '74 crushed his opponent in a contest that was never considered competitive. In the Senate race, by contrast, Republican John Sununu narrowly defeated Democratic Governor Jeanne Shaheen by 19,000 votes.

Although Tuesday's elections have been deemed a Republican triumph, only a handful of House races were competitive to begin with. And in the critical Senate elections, winners managed only slim margins of victory.

Those close numbers should send a message to the White House and the new majority on Capitol Hill that the country is as narrowly divided as ever. While Republicans will control both the presidency and the Congress, they lack the mandate to govern from the far right.

Democrats must also draw important lessons from Tuesday's results. Ever since the messy Florida election, they have failed to act as an opposition party. By not drawing a clear line between themselves and President Bush on such key issues as tax policy and Iraq, Democrats did not offer an alternative to the party of a popular president.

The public suffered most as a result of this timidity. Voters did not get to see the kind of vigorous debate that should always be part of the policy-making and electoral process, especially during an election cycle. Democrats now need to act like the opposition, as their minority status demands.

Building Trust

As the College's Board of Trustees returns to campus, it is unfortunate that the itinerary prioritizes building dedications over a student-Board meeting. The latter, a staple of Trustee visits, has been omitted from this weekend's schedule -- despite a discussion agenda that includes academic planning and budget cuts, two matters of central importance to students.

Careful consideration of layoffs should be a high priority, due to their potential damage to Dartmouth's community. The Board needs to search for creative solutions to prevent the loss of 30 College employees. For instance, attrition could be a comparatively painless strategy for eliminating positions. Coping with financial strain is a difficult undertaking, but we hope that the Trustees will thoroughly examine whether layoffs are the most reasonable option before the College takes such a drastic step.

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