The midterm elections last Tuesday, Nov. 7, resulted in what can only be described as a landslide. Democratic politicians were understandably eager to rejoice at the fact that both the House of Representatives and the Senate would be securely in their grasp for the next two years, and a prevailing theme among them was the idea that the next logical political victory to score is the White House in 2008. ‘Voters love us now,’ they reason, ‘so they’ll probably love us in two years when President George W. Bush finally has to leave office.’
But Democrats should be wary of such hubris. Given the nearly unfathomable level of incompetence, political corruption, sexual scandals and overall arrogance exhibited by the GOP over the last few years (but particularly in the last few months), the result of Tuesday’s election is most appropriately read as a vote for one thing and one thing only: a divided government that can reign in a Republican administration which has gone unchecked for too long.
The American system of checks and balances we are all taught in middle school has practically ceased to exist since 2000, when an unprincipled party assumed control of the federal government at every effective level and had its way with the system, whether building a bridge to Nowhere, Alaska, using money from Indian casinos to bribe lobbyists, sending as few troops as possible into Iraq or hiding the antics of Rep. Mark Foley. The American people, remembering a thing or two about civics, decided that at least one branch of government ought to be able to temper the worst excesses of the others, and the Democrats were the logical choice for the task.
But a corollary of this is that it says absolutely nothing about how the American people would feel about a Democratic president, let alone a president and Congress both controlled by the Democrats. The voters are looking to the Democrats to clean up the garbage left by the previous tenants, not to replace the extremist GOP agenda with an extremist agenda of some other sort.
If the Democrats are serious about keeping Congress and taking back the presidency in 2008, they will have to accomplish two things over the next two years.
First, they will have to prove that they can be an effective check against Republican corruption and force Bush to weigh the costs of any legislation he proposes.
Second, and far more importantly, they will have to organize a solid, coherent platform on which to run that can bring back the moderates and independents who have grown alienated by the partisan extremists of both sides. The platform also needs to be one that the average American voter can plausibly believe is in the best interests of the country. This suggestion is neither new nor insightful; key players have been telling the party this for years, but the very nature of the Democrats