Yesterday, Republican senators Conrad Burns of Montana and George Allen of Virgina conceded victory to their Democratic opponents, giving control of the two houses of legislature to the Democrats for the first time since…um…Jesus, I think.
While I’m delighted to finally have a return to the system of checks and balances, I do not underestimate the Democrats’ ability to still blow this election. If they thought that the last twelve years of struggling upstream against Republican rule was difficult, now the hard part begins. Now the Democrats are the ones responsible for producing results. No longer can they sit by and fruitlessly complain of Republican shenanigans and thump their chests and rent their garments. Now they have to actually form ideas, and put those ideas into action.
It will still be difficult to get bills past the White House, and they shouldnt forget that their hold on the senate is tenuous at best, and that tiebreaker votes still come from the President of the Senate, Dick “Fuck You” Cheney. There will be fewer obstacles to them than before, but the obstacles remaining are formidable ones.
This is not the time for the Democrats to glide into their new positions riding on the wave of euphoria that came with their election victories. That’s what happened after the last election (remember, “I’ve earned political capitol, and I intend to spend it”?). The White House and the legislature steamrolled forward under the delusion that a marginal victory had made them invincible. Their hastily-passed plans stumbled, and they found themselves the political victims of their own bumbling. Almost from the day after the elections, the Republicans were in a constant downward spiral.
I hope that the Democrats can keep their heads. And I hope that they manage to pull a miracle out of their collective butt and get organized and develop a voice for themselves. I’m not terribly optimistic that they can hold themselves together (the very nature of the Democratic ideal makes them a particularly uncohesive lot), but right now, they’re the best hope I’ve got.
It’s worth noting that later this month, a movie about Bobby Kennedy is coming out. I hope that all of the Democrats–particularly the newly-elected ones–go to see it, and I hope that they are reminded of what it used to mean to be a Democrat. Bobby was the last one to represent the Democratic ideal of someone who watches out for the little guy, who attempts to bring fairness and equity to the social order. It was he who crafted the Civil Rights Act, and he who actually went out into the field to evaluate whether or not the “war on poverty” was working.
He cared, and it got him killed. I wonder if today’s Democrats care as much.