Like so many Americans, I stayed up late last night watching the results come in, and was delighted to see the rising tide of change. Andrew Sullivan had been saying for a while now that this wasn't an election, it was an intervention. And indeed it was. My faith is restored in Americans to respond appropriately when the pendulum swings too far in any direction. I had been a bit worried. While we'd been hearing about the rock-bottom approval ratings of Congress, I had also heard a poll measuring people's approval of their own Congressmember, and that was in the 60s. But last night, all politics was not local. I was amazed and encouraged at how many people looked past the local, and voted for change even if they liked their own Congressmember.
While it is tempting with such a wave of euphoria to raise the "Mission Accomplished" banner, it would be as premature now as it was when President Bush proclaimed it on the aircraft carrier. The election was only the beginning. Now that the Democrats have control, let's see what they can do. We've heard very little about a Democratic agenda, but rumors of one are starting to emerge. In expected-Speaker Pelosi's speech today, she articulated raising the minimum wage, enacting recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, and fixing Medicare to allow government negotiation of drug prices. According to pundit Jonathan Chait (who seemed to be the only person who knew that the Democrats had an agenda), the agenda also includes cutting the interest rate on student loans, relaxing limitations on federal funding of stem cell research, and imposing "pay-as-you-go" budget rules. It was encouraging to see both Pelosi and Bush being magnanimous in their statements today, and it was very welcome news to hear that Rumsfeld has already been given his orders. Amidst the obligatory bipartisan platitudes about working together, there was at least some hint that they may actually find some common ground (like a guest worker program, for example).
So the Republicans fumbled, and the Democrats recovered the ball. Let's see if they can actually move it forward. They would do well to keep in mind the sage observation of Senator Coburn, reflecting on the Republican wreckage: "One of the great paradoxes in politics is that governing to maintain power is the surest way to lose it."