Yeah, the Democrats won, what’s next?

Originally posted at http://cafzal.blogspot.com/2006/12/yeah-democrats-wonwhats-next.html on 10 December 2006.
Okay, the “thumpin’”, as President George W. Bush put it, is over. The 2006 US midterm elections came to a close weeks ago, believe me, after all the blogging I did during the elections, I am relieved. Yeah, yeah, the Democrats took the House of Representatives and Senate, respectively, by a landslide and a margin, but what’s next? Time to celebrate for moderates and liberals in the country? Time for change with the new majority Democrats? Not exactly. The upcoming Democratic-majority US Congress may well be as bad as the current one. One positive: maybe the Dems will stick it to President Bush. One negative: do they have enough of a majority — even within their own party — to get anything done, let alone show the president that he is not the sovereign leader of America (or the world)? What about the fact that Bush has veto power? Just the squabbling — regardless of political affiliation — over Iraq, which, coupled with economy, was the main focus of the voters this past election, shows that the American people may be in for some ride these next years. 2006 elections Even before the elections, political analysts were warning that even if the Dems won not all would be well. First of all, winning Democrats would most likely be unseating moderate Republicans, replacing them with slightly conservative to conservative Democrats, and, since they would not be able to get any moderate or liberal change done, the Democrats would be sad and worn out (as if they were not already). Meanwhile, the GOP would be ready to rise up to the Democrats. America [usually] loves an underdog, and keep in mind, a quarter of the electorate are evangelical or fundamentalist Christians — predominately in the South. The GOP would rally this massive demographic and stall any good chance of reform by creating a Democratic nightmare in 2008. Gridlock, past and future For the next two years, the Democratic Party will also have to

deal with the fact that, even though they control the legislature, the executive still has its occupier — a Republican. I am speaking, of course, of President George W. Bush. Back in 1992, a man from Arkansas, a man with a hope for America, was elected. President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, served for eight years, many of which were probably not what he wished they were. In 1994, Rep. Newt Gingrich and others launched what they coined as the “contract with America”, now referred to as the ‘Republican Revolution’ that resulted in massive seat gains for the GOP in both houses of Congress. This disabled Clinton from passing many of his sought-after laws. This also gave Americans a good taste of what political gridlock really is. After the 110th United States Congress is sworn in next January, there will be at least two years of this gridlock. The differences between the Clinton era gridlock and the upcoming gridlock include the fact that back then the Democrats controlled the presidency, the Republicans the Congress, and it is now the other way around. The Dems also have less of a majority now then the Republicans had back in the ‘90s, and there is an ever-increasing conservative base ready to be fired up to come to the assistance of the Republican Party. Pelosi and the Democratic roadmap It will be interesting to see what the first woman Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, will bring. Pelosi is third in line for the Presidency (on the very off and unrealistic occasion that both President Bush and Vice President Chaney were to pass away in the next two years). I am starting to feel a bit more optimistic about House Speakerelect Nancy Pelosi's vision for the Democratic Party and America as a whole. Pelosi’s "100-hour plan" — a spin-off of former President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “100-day plan” — looks especially promising, albeit quite ambitious. The plan, outlined in an often-cited Associated Press article, calls for ethics reforms (e.g. lobbying restrictions), implementation of the recommendations made by the 9/11 Commission (which the US government is still getting failing grades from), and an easier way for people to pay for college (e.g. interest rate cuts for student loans, educational initiatives). On Pelosi’s 100-hour to do list is

also the passing of federally-funded stem cell research legislation, a raise of the minimum wage (from $5.15 to $7.25), the creation of a path to lower drug prices (which 85% of Americans back) [for those using Medicare], and other positive and progressive goals. The ethics reforms are planned for the first day, in order to "break the link between lobbyists and legislation,” says Pelosi. During this entire plan, Pelosi has told AP she does not wish to further raise the national deficit that has ballooned under this president and this Congress; she says she is to institute a “pay-as-you-go” plan after her first 100 hours. The ultimate goal of this so-called 100-hour plan: "drain the swamp" of Republican rule the past 12 years in Congress, says Pelosi. Political climate The political winds have changed with the elections resulting in a Congressional majority for the Democrats, but it may be too insignificant, too late. Speaking of changes in the political winds, President Bush seems to want to be everyone's bipartisan friend again; a "united, not a divider", I doubt it. Much of the White House's political strategy depends on polarizing and dividing a nation, which is easy to do with (1) lack of government transparency and accountability more than ever (2) fear mongering in the "war on terrorism" (3) splitting a two-party nation so most vote for the GOP, using (1) and (2) as votegainers. This is all along with ideological and economic class partitioning, e.g. evangelicals/religious right, neoconservatives, 'safety moms', 'Wall Street types', and [other] special interests. One ongoing question is whether the GOP can keep these conservatives and evangelicals on their side and can get them out to the polls, while staying congruent with respective ideologies of their various right-wing bases. This is where a twoparty system with lax campaign finance regulation gets America: extreme polarized partisanship, elevated positions for special interest groups, and very limited choices for already-disgruntled constituents. Representatives Pelosi (D-CA) and Boxer (D-CA) are two of the few quite liberal House members; Senators Feingold (D-WI), Feinstein (D-CA), and Kennedy (D-MA) are some of the few quite

liberal Senate members (all are Democrats). Dem options; in conclusion The Democratic win in Congress is symbolic at best. There are, however, a handful of things that may be of good use to the Democrats and the nation. One of the best things that can come out of this exchange of power in Congress is that the rules former Majority Leader Tom "The Hammer" DeLay set up making the House majority party so much more powerful could be used to the Democrat's advantage — and possibly the advantage of the nation. DeLay is now indicted on a slew of well-deserved charges, including those relating to campaign finance, and is being investigated for his roll in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandals. It ultimately comes down to this question: can the Democrats make a significant difference with their new majority in the US political scene? Unless the Democrats can rally support for the required two-thirds vote for a presidential veto override, I remain pessimistic. The Democrats may be or may not be lucky enough to get some of the forward-looking reforms passed by a majority of Congress anyway. I am not too optimistic that the Dems will take full advantage of the majority power and the ability to investigate the White House by using Executive subpoena, but not to the extent that Executive-Legislature relations are harmed [too much]. One can only hope that the Dems will take this chance, grab it by its horns, and make the best of their around 30-seat advantage in the 435-seat House of Representatives. No matter what, there will be gridlock. Meanwhile, the race for 2008 is already well underway. That’s politics. The above is an essay outlining the Democratic victory and the issues surrounding it in this past midterm election in the United States. Some of the writing is extracted from previous posts I wrote on my blog. Clearthought is a blogger and student. His blog can be found at http://cafzal.blogspot.com/.