What to do next?
Schadenfreude means pleasure taken from someone else's misfortune, and I have to admit this week (after the election on Tuesday) I'm full of such guilty-free pleasure. Well, now we know that there's been a backlash against Bush's policies and the Republican majorities that enabled the "decider." Obviously everybody tries to assign specific meaning to the outcome of this election, and there are a few interesting trends, but this election is far from being a historic national re-alignment--that is, not yet; it will depend on what happens next. It seems to be, though, a re-affirmation that the Northeast and the west coast are indeed very blue. The old South is the remaining bastion of conservatism and we see that the winner can achieve governing national majorities without having a majority of the South's delegation. This, perhaps, will free the Dems to push a more progressive agenda without having to pay homage to a conservative ideology and the politics of the South. The progressive states can lead the way and show the rest of the nation that there's much to be gained by being a cosmopolitan and tolerant society.
President Bush is the biggest loser today, and I'm glad to see that his frat-boy mentality, his stubbornness to recognize reality, and his presiding over a disastrous incompetence were defeated at the polls. His name was not on the ballot, but his policies were. I'm not convinced that the Democratic alternative would have fared as well if the Republicans had been more competent. For example, had the Iraq war--a wrong war of choice, and a bad foreign policy choice--been conducted with a degree of competence, I dare to guess that Americans would be supporting it today. This is a great opportunity for the Democrats and the progressives to steer the country forward, but only if they exhibit good government skills and make the sweep in 2008. As Paul Krugman said, we could see the end of "the movement of conservatism--the potent alliance of wealthy individuals, corporate interests and the religious right."
The new Democratic leadership will have to run Congress in a more democratic way--giving more rights that the Republicans never considered giving the minority, because the GOP never accepted the legitimacy of the opposition. After Bush "won" in 2000, he talked about a mandate; same with the GOP that swept Congress in 1994. In 2004, Bush won by 2% and claimed imperial powers; Congress went along with it. The Dems won by larger margins this year, but they should not repeat the arrogance of the Republicans and of the lunatic fringe that had captured power. Solidifying the Democratic gains in 2008 [a very good prospect] will help our country and the GOP in the long run for this will force the Republicans to re-examine the efficacy of their divisive politics and may lead to a resurgence of the moderate Republicans--the most endangered political species in the last 12 years.
President Bush has lots of power--as any president does--but the most important power a chief executive has is the power to convince! The sitting president seems more and more as a sitting duck that even Dick Cheney can hit. This president has not done good for us, for the world. He wasted the opportunity of the century to make the US a true leading force for positive change in the world--a change that enhances the quality of life when it matters--by improving the human condition and reducing violence.
We liberals & progressives see the world as a marketplace of ideas, of individual freedoms, that representative government has a role to play in protecting the commonwealth, and that the culture of life means policies that giving people opportunities to realize their own potential. President Bush wasted the world's good will toward us after 9-11 and in turn he managed to divide our friends and unite our enemies. Inadvertently, his failures gave the Dems the chance to govern.
This century is still young but we Americans have to show more maturity in selecting our own leaders and hold them accountable. In a country were there's too much political indifference, those of us who accept the responsibility of political activism and civic engagement have an important role to play: keep our representative government accountable, improve & contribute to the political dialogue, and be the change we want to see!
Nov 10, 2006
What to do next?