If there is anything like "business as usual," the frustration and cynicism factor will poison our Republic. This election will have meant no more than the Iraqi election staged by Bush & Co.
Three messages that need to be delivered:
- The war was a mistake and it is being run stupidly
- The kitchen economy is in the red and going the wrong way
- The culture of corruption needs to be wiped out completely
Throw the Bums Out. That is what the voters did themselves, to a large extent. But their targets were not just the Conrad Burns of the Congress, but the "culture of corruption" that every Republican bears a responsibility for.
Voters want to see housecleaning completed with an exclamation point. Pelosi's "most honest and open Congress in history" is code for doing that. Fumigating the place.
But it has to go right into the corporate fraud and profiteering in Iraq and into the corporate fingers in the Medicare bill and Energy plan and every other piece of legislation. The lobbying firms on K street now are overloaded with ex-Republican legislators. Let them find honest work. "Witch hunt" is going to be used a lot. I still like "fumigating the place."
Strategically it is very important for Democrats to do this right. This is the opportunity to prove themselves to be the honest stewards of the public's business, and the chance to show, in the conservative metaphor, that the Republican Daddy is an unreliable drunk and cheat.
The Economy. The most pathetic thing about Dubya's news conference the day after the election was his befuddlement around the economy. "The economy is strong," he said, and shrugged his shoulders in bewilderment that voters turned out in droves against the party in power.
This guy just doesn't get it. He is completely out of touch with Americans on Main Street. I personally am infuriated by the top-heavy debt-loaded economy in which the Middle Class is the beast of burden.
But it was a different, less abstract anger about the economy that came to the voting booth. It was the Middle Class using the credit card to buy groceries and the working class choosing between health care and rent.
Income has stalled. The price of necessities like health care and energy and housing are going up. Corporations and the rich are grinning. That's why Bush doesn't get it. He can't see Middle America looking at the stack of bills on the kitchen table and wondering what happens if they get old or sick.
The War. When you run halfway around the world, invade a country rich with oil, and drag in a spurious national defense angle for justification, you have a built-in PR problem. When the war blows up in your face -- or in the face of your constituents' children -- you have a bigger problem.
The only thing that could have saved the Republicans would have been another 9-11. That would have meant they'd failed to protect us, but it would have raised the fear level high enough to hide this disaster in Iraq for another couple of months.
There simply has to be a change. Politically Democrats do not need to come up with the plan. They can let the president twist in the wind.
Every way out of this mess is ugly, so whatever is decided needs to have everybody's fingerprints on it. Morally, Democrats do need to push the pace and make sure competence is rewarded. And as above, the fraud and waste and war profiteering needs to be exposed and stopped. (Rebuilding the country is a good place to start returning Iraq to the Iraqis.)
If these clear pronouncements from the voting booth are acted on, Democrats can be the majority party for a long time. It will mean "your vote counts when you vote Democrat." It is just for that reason that Republicans will do everything they can to stop the messenger.
The current show of bipartisanship is going to be a one-way street.
It is up to us to make sure it happens, with support and -- if necessary -- criticism.