The Holy Bible has an explanation for the midterm election results as good as any I can think of: "Pride goeth before a fall."
The American people finally got fed up with arrogance, corruption, lies, mismanagement and a reckless foreign policy. The Republicans had gotten drunk on power and became complacent. The Republicans apparently believed that the American people were incurably gullible. Well, they are sometimes too trusting, but they are not gullible.
The Democrats gave the Republicans a decisive beating, and if the Republicans hadn’t spent so many millions of dollars, the beating would have been even worse. Some Democrats were just drowned out by GOP money. But the GOP was a glum bunch by lunch hour the day after the elections.
If the Democrats will just restore congressional oversight and hold this administration accountable for the next two years, they will have earned the thanks of the American people. The Republicans had used their majorities in both houses to stifle any independent investigations and any honest attempts at oversight. They acted like puppies on President Bush’s leash. The Republican leadership treated its Democratic colleagues in a most unfair manner.
Already, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has resigned and decided to get out of Dodge before the new "sheriff" holds him accountable for his bloody blunders. Rats never show any loyalty to a sinking ship. I expect there will be other departures. Once you’ve played top dog in an arrogant and disdainful manner, the prospect of becoming the low dog isn’t too appealing.
A change of majority has a tremendous impact. Now the Democrats will take over the chairmanships of the various committees and have the power to hire a majority of the staff. About 3,000 Republican committee gofers will be looking for work. To be a member of the minority party in the House or Senate is to be, for all practical purposes, powerless. The majority will set the agenda and the rules.
The only way a legislative body can work effectively is on a collegial basis. If there are some remaining Republicans who treated their Democratic colleagues with respect and courtesy, they will probably be able to get some things done. It’s the arrogant hind ends of a horse who will likely find themselves shut out of the action, as they deserve to be.
I’m sure the next Congress, which will take office in January, will have some positions on some issues that I will disagree with, but that’s the price of a free society. If you’re one of those people who will only support those who agree with you 100 percent on 100 percent of the issues, then you and your supporters can hold your meetings in a closet.
We are too large and too diverse a country to reach unanimity on all the issues that arise. As long as we can come together on those few that are really important, diversity of opinion won’t hurt us. In fact, it helps because it assures the issues will be fully debated. No individual, no party and no group has a monopoly on either wisdom or virtue.
At any rate, this midterm election has been a tonic for me. I feel good about the country. The American people haven’t gone to sleep at the switch, and they aren’t taken in by the president’s rhetoric.
If the Democrats get complacent and make the same mistakes the Republicans did, there will be another election, and the voters can toss them out. We really do have the best of all possible countries, despite our faults. How much easier it is to change political direction when people use the ballot instead of the bullet.
Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years.