Voters cast their ballots with corruption in mind. They were thinking not only of malfeasance, but also government incompetence in conducting war and recovering from natural disasters. They were voting for a change, motivated by the very bad example Republicans have recently provided.
That's good. It's good to see American voters stand up on their hind legs and angrily say enough is enough. The Republicans surely got the voters attention.
But it would be easy to make the mistake that it was all the good things the Democrats want to do that got the voters attention. No, Democrats were just the alternative to what wasn't working.
OK, what doesn't work is now obvious. So, Democrats know what not to do. To keep the voters' confidence, Democrats will need to do find a way to do what does work. That's a little harder to figure out.
Tax and spend liberalism does not work for the voters. That was why there was the Reagan Revolution. The 2006 election finally put an end to the Reagan Revolution, just as the Reagan Revolution put an end to tax and spend liberalism. Voters did not vote to bring back tax and spend liberalism. Democrats need to find the 21st century path for the party. Taking the 20th century path again will not lead anywhere.
If the Republicans hadn't made such major mistakes as those represented by Jack Abramoff, Iraq, and Katrina, moderate and independent voters would not have voted for Democrats. They would have continued to vote against high taxes and against things they feel represent loose morals, such as gay marriage and overused abortions. The hearts of Democrats say it shouldn't be so, but it will be hard for Democrats to carry the Congress and Presidency in future elections without recognizing and admitting this truth. A new middle road, a broader socially appealing path must be cleared in order to keep the voters that gave Democrats this victory.
For now, Democrats must only clean up the Republicans' messes to get well-deserved credit. It's a Herculean task, but well within feasibility. By 2008, Democrats will need to offer a socially appealing path as well, that offers more than mere competence and ethics, the baseline expectation of today's voter.
With time and new pressing issues and fears, voters will forget the then distant messes Republican made. Voters minds will eventually turn to "where will Democrats lead us," forgetting their anger over where Republicans have taken us.