Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A Rising Tide?

Last night, as returns from the midterm elections filtered in to the mediasphere, many questions were answered. Yes... Rick Santorum has been ejected from the Senate (what will K street do without him?). Yes... the Democrats will control the House of Representatives. Yes... Bush's low approval ratings affected the outcome. Yes... people are beginning to realize that the Republicans are corrupt. Yes... the US voted for change. No... people don't care about John Kerry's botched joke. No... there were no rampant voter irrregularities (despite Missy Hart's whining).

That rush of air you hear is the deflating collective ego of the self-righteous. At last, Republicans can no longer claim some sort of broad social mandate. The extremist wing of the GOP will finally have to step back and take an objective look at itself. They do not represent the values of the majority. Bush and company can claim no political capital from this election cycle. Their imcompetence and hubris will no longer go unchallenged. Checks and balances, that essential requirement of representative democracy, is hereby restored. This is learning support for the reality-challenged. The "Republican Revolution", that movement that began with such pomp and circumstance in 1994, has crested and now begins its slide into history.

Of course, there is no such thing as a completely decisive election nowadays. We await recounts to determine the makeup of the US Senate. Both Democratic candidates, Jon Tester (MT) and Jim Webb (VA), have come out ahead in excruciatingly close races. These victories would effectively give the Dems a majority. Yet unlike the Republicans in Florida during the 2000 presidential election, the Democratic Party has somehow failed to declare their full victory. They should have learned their lesson... public perception is a huge component of reality. They should announce the formation of a transition team to usher in their party control of the Senate. The sort of vacillation that has kept the party leadership from seizing the advantage is indicative of the attitude that has kept them weak for so long. The longer Democrats hesitate, the more emboldened the Republican leadership will become. Right now they are stunned by their defeat, but they won't remain so for long.

What enabled this tidal wave of victory was the adoption of an aggressive strategy. The power of the GOP remained virtually unchecked for so long that it got careless in its perceived invulnerability. Like a rat in Grover Norquist's bathtub, the Democrats were so cornered that they had to strike out for their very survival. It just so happened that the bloated Republicans had plenty of soft targets. But now that the Democrats are out of the tub (so to speak), will they strike a bold posture, or scurry about chaotically?

Perhaps they will organize and promote an actual alternative agenda to address the concerns of ordinary working Americans (for clues- they should look toward the success of mimimum wage ballot initiatives in every state that they appeared). Maybe they'll challenge a tax policy that benefits the wealthy at the expense of the poor... or address the budget deficit and advance a plan to pay down the national debt. Could they pressure the Bush administration to draw down their Iraqi involvement? They might even have a go at formulating a health plan to cover the legions of the uninsured. Whatever they do, they need to advance a program of legislation that communicates clearly what they have to offer. And they need to do so in an assertive, if not aggressive, manner. Otherwise their moment will be a short one.


Anonymous marc v. said...

here, here - well said dave. time will tell...

11:35 AM  

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