MADELEINE BRAND, host:
This is Day to Day. I'm Madeleine Brand.
ALEX CHADWICK, host:
I'm Alex Chadwick here at a coffee shop in the black community of Ladera Heights in Los Angeles. Coming up, the future of the Republican Party, will that be John McCain's or Sarah Palin's party now?
BRAND: But first, the Democrats won at least five seats in the Senate, and I say at least because several races, as of this moment, are still undecided - Georgia, Oregon, Alaska, Minnesota. Out of nearly 2.9 million votes cast, incumbent Republican Norm Coleman in Minnesota has just 571 more votes than Democrat Al Frankin, and there will be a recount. It's not expected there will be a winner declared until next month.
CHADWICK: And on the House side, there are also races still too close to call. Some estimates show the Democrats, as of now, picking up a dozen seats. Others say that number could be 20. NPR news analyst Juan Williams is here with us. Juan, the big news is that the Democrats did not get this 60-seat majority in the Senate. I guess that's the big news out of Congress. They did make some gains, and they knocked off a lot of moderate Republicans. Where does that leave us?
JUAN WILLIAMS: Well, it's an interesting dynamic because suddenly, you realize, they don't need 60 to get most of the legislation through the legislative process, Alex. And hopefully, from the position of Harry Reid, the Democratic majority leader, he will be able to pick off a few Republicans on any piece of legislation.
Now, the other half of this is, if you're Mitch McConnell, the minority leader, who narrowly avoided defeat himself in Kentucky, what you're saying is, you know what? The moderates are gone. I've got a hardcore conservative base in the Republican Senate, and the question is, are we going to work with the likes of Harry Reid, or are we going to be obstructionists. There may be a honeymoon period...
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WILLIAMS: But that's the basic dynamic in place as we look at the Senate today.
BRAND: Well, Juan, will Mitch McConnell look to the public and look to Harry Reid, who said, has quoted as saying he's not worried about obstruction, or will he be looking to the base, the core of his party, to someone like Senator Jim DeMint, who's very conservative from South Carolina, who's basically saying, we need to refocus on core conservative principles?
WILLIAMS: Well, the question here, Madeleine, is, what is your core conservative principle? There is some self scrutiny going on inside the party. They're looking for leadership. They're looking for ideas. They're looking for those core principles. The problem is that, in the midst of financial crisis, with Democrats pushing additional spending, in the midst of an effort to end the wars, the Republicans aren't sure what they are except that they're not Democrats.
BRAND: And, Juan, what about the Democrats? What about the left side of that party, and maybe President-Elect Obama might be feeling some pressure from them to do more than he thinks is possible.
WILLIAMS: Well, this is so interesting because, you know, he's got to run to the middle if he ever hopes to win re-election, if he hopes to govern successfully. That may be a problem because you've got people like Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, who have had a pent-up sense of mission, which is that they want to get their legislation through, and they feel they've got enough Democrats now to make it happen and put that legislation on the desk of a Democratic President. They finally have that.
But from Barack Obama's perspective, he doesn't want to do what is called over-reaching. He wants to get involved in things where he can build coalitions and present himself as a moderate Democrat. I think there's going to be a lot of pressure coming from the left against the new President-Elect Barack Obama.
CHADWICK: Juan, you've been a journalist in Washington for a long time. You wrote a civil rights history as well. You wrote the biography of Thurgood Marshall. What does this moment mean to you, personally?
WILLIAMS: You know, it may sound like cliche, but blood, sweat, and tears and generations past have gone away, you know, and here is this young man, Barack Obama, who really represents, I think, something beyond what the dreamer could have dreamed. You know, it's unbelievable on that level.
BRAND: I'm just curious, you know, you saw on TV last night tears in the eyes of Jesse Jackson and Oprah Winfrey, and, you know, you talked about hearing Barack Obama's speech at the Democratic National Convention, and you had tears in your eyes. What about last night?
WILLIAMS: No. And I didn't have - you know, when I got teary eyed, it was two times. One was when Michelle Obama spoke, and I saw her and the kids and her mother in the audience, and I just had this sense of something greater than any of us. You know, you see the play of history and people, and you never see a black woman in a position like that, you know, who's kind of stylish, and she's the prospective first lady. I thought, oh my God, look at this positive image, given all the stuff I often harp about, which is the, you know, gangster, thug-like image of black people that's so common in American life.
CHADWICK: NPR news analyst and colleague, Juan Williams. Juan, thank you again.
WILLIAMS: You're welcome, Alex. Thanks, Madeleine.
BRAND: Thanks, Juan.
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