Yesterday voters in effect kicked Bush out of office and ended the reign of radical Republicans in Washington. No matter how Bush strains to spin the results in his press conference later today, the public got a serious case of buyer's remorse after watching a faith-based administration run into a wall of reality called Iraq, Katrina, corruption, a split-level economy, and social security privatization.
Democracy worked. But it was no sure thing.
For ours is a very flawed democracy, which tilts the playing field toward monied, conservative interests for two big reasons. First, with corporate PACs outspending labor PACs 17 to 1, Republican candidates on average significantly out-spend and out-advertise Democratic ones - as a system of checks and balances dissolves into one of checks, more checks, and some cash. Second, because of the Connecticut Compromise of 1787, twenty small states which together equal the size of California alone can stop the Senate dead in its tracks; for this and other reasons, including the electoral college and gerrymandering, a minority of voters can control the Senate, House and Presidency, as we've seen.
This built-in anti-democratic bias - plus a government waving the bloody shirt of 9/11 at every opportunity - enabled W to affect a faux populism where his agenda was touted as representing "the people." In fact, Bush represented only his three bases - if he ever opposed a proposal of big business, the religious far right or neo-cons itching for war, it doesn't come to mind. But policies like tax cuts for the rich, program cuts for the poor, social security "reform", less stem cell research and preventive war may make sense to an administration governing on a right-wing and a prayer, but it runs contrary to the interests and beliefs of most Americans. Hence the rejection of Bush & Co. yesterday.
All of which tees up the 2008 election as THE fight for America's future. Will the public backlash to Bush's extremism and incompetence mean that Democrats take over the Executive Branch as well? Or will their built-in advantages enable Republicans to assert their electoral edge? The lesson for Democrats in all this is that, eventually, the public responds to politicians who respond to their needs. Results trump rhetoric.
We have two years to develop a program of Progressive Patriotism that delivers on a stronger democracy, a fair economy and collective security abroad.