Thursday, November 9
The winners' to-do list.
Just because I'm a loving granny of six doesn't mean I won't smack you lopsided.
So, like, the election.
I could write some long, gloaty rant about the election results and rub the Republicans' sweet faces in all those smug quotes from right after the 2004 election about the "permanent majority" they were working toward. I'm sure I'll get around to mocking specific right-wingers eventually, but for right now, more than anything else, I'm just relieved. Relieved that something's finally going to be standing in the way of the Bush administration just basically doing whatever the hell it wants. Relieved that my voice finally matters again on Capitol Hill, or at least I can feel like it does.
Perhaps it's true that the Democrats didn't so much win this election as the Republicans lost it. But I don't want to let that overshadow two things: One, we had a terrific (and diverse) slate of candidates, and two, we finally had competent people running the show. The slate of candidates included men and women, different religions, different races, different stances on issues like abortion and gun control where the GOP has tried to paint us as rigid ideologues; the party really bolstered its reputation as being the "big tent" party this year.
Heath Shuler: gun owner, pro-lifer, Tennessee Volunteer . . . and as a Democrat, I only have a problem with one of those things.
And I have to give props to the people who were directing traffic, too. The Republicans tried to demonize Nancy Pelosi and all but come right out and say she'd be performing gay Muslim marriages in the House chamber, but she (and the voters) didn't let it stick. Howard Dean, too, is another person the Republicans have badly underestimated up to this point. Even while weathering lingering jokes about the "Dean scream," he put together a true 50-state strategy that fielded candidates and reached out to voters in districts the old-school running-scared DLC appeasement wing of the party had thought (wrongly) they could get away with ignoring. Get it, Republicans? While you were making fun of HoHo, he was busy grabbing seats out from under your nose in Arizona, Montana, Indiana, even Kansas. Disrespect him at your own peril.
Anyway, however they got it, the Democrats have been handed a golden opportunity to be everything the Republicans said they were going to be but failed miserably at: the party of ideas, the party of accountability, even the party of fiscal sanity and the party of better security policy. So I hope that whatever else Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid and the rest of the presumptive leadership do between now and January, they don't spend a lot of time patting themselves on the back, because there's a lot of work to be done. President Bush boasted about all the "political capital" he had right after the '04 elections, and he squandered it in a hurry. We can't make the same mistake.
If you'll forgive me for reverting back into football metaphors for a second, the Democrats would do well right now to heed the lessons of football teams who have built a lead and then "played not to lose" -- they almost always lose anyway. (Just ask, uh, the Georgia Bulldogs right about now.) The Republicans got a bunch of power and it only took them 12 years to start playing only to keep that power, not to use it to make any kind of actual progress. Doing nothing: That's what they paid for this past Tuesday, and that's what the Democrats will be paying for two years from now if they do the same thing. And they'll deserve to.
Now that the Democrats actually have control of something for the first time in 12 years, it's time to break free of the timidity that has characterized the party ever since Bush got elected, and actually do something. Do things that will benefit the American people, rather than just the wealthiest 1 percent or the big corporations, and force Bush and the Republican minority to be against it. Raise the minimum wage. Show the world that fighting terrorism doesn't have to involve randomly invading other countries: Start paying attention to the security risks here at home that the Republicans have neglected. And don't be afraid to have a conversation about how we can make the health-care system better. Sure, there'll be people who start whipping out the old "socialized medicine" trope like they did back in 1993, but there will be many, many more people who will be glad that someone's finally addressing the problem.
As Ol' Dirty said, gotta get up and beeee-eeee somebody.
And don't just use the next two years as a get-back opportunity. Yes, investigations need to be held into intelligence failures and the like, but that can't be the only thing that the 110th Congress is about. This term isn't about 2000 and 2004, it's about 2008 and everything that comes after that. Give people a reason to believe what they already suspect deep down: That Democrats are the ones who know about, and who give a shit about, making the government run properly.
So let's do that, OK? Let's do the people's work. Unlike the Republicans, we're not so beholden to the radical Christian right that we have to waste a lot of time making fatuous shows over irrelevancies like gay marriage or flag-burning. Let's do the people's real work and do it fearlessly. Let's make intimidation from the right wing take a back seat to responsibility to the citizens. Let's put our heads together with the rest of Washington -- Republicans included -- and find a way out of the mess in Iraq.
And above all, let's prioritize all those things above hanging on to power. The Republicans didn't do that, and they got nailed for it. But now that we've seen their example, there's no reason we have to follow it.
Now go out and do good.
Added, just for curiosity's sake: Somebody answer me this -- why is it OK to slander Nancy Pelosi and her "San Francisco values," but dare to make an off-hand comment about Mississippi and you're all but marked for death? Anybody want to help me out on that one?