MIDTERM DEMOCRATS AND THE TWO-YEAR MANDATE
Political power in the United States has shifted to the Democrats, in dramatic fashion, and the world has breathed a collective sigh of relief. George W. Bush's free pass has been taken away by American voters who have (finally) grown tired of his reckless approach to both foreign and domestic issues. Democrats have earned the right to celebrate, but it shouldn't go on for long - there's too much work to be done.
The issue cited most by American midterm voters was the war in Iraq. No war in the short history of America has ever been so completely mishandled as this war has been from the start. Bush's administration planned it as if they had no idea who the American military was going to fight, how to fight them, or what that fighting would lead to. That's a bit surprising, when it was the U.S. who taught these "insurgents" how to fight when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan twenty-six years ago.
American voters were also tired of waiting for Bush to offer an honest goal in Iraq. In lieu of a genuine objective, the war has been wrapped around a generic idea called "the war on terror". If that is truly what Bush is content to offer as the objective, we've already lost the war as soundly as the Republicans lost this election. Worldwide terrorism has quadrupled with Bush in the White House. Terrorism is an ideal, not a perceptible enemy - how do you declare war (or fight a war, or win a war) against an ideal? You don't, because you can't. Apparently Bush and the Republicans, and even some Democrats, didn't know this.
This is George W. Bush's war, his vision, his quagmire. It is also George W. Bush's economy, environment, tax system, education system, federal deficit, foreign policy, trade policy, stock market, etc. Can the newly-empowered Democratic leadership even hope to fix everything the Bush administration has so thoroughly bungled? Not a chance, not even a slight chance, but they better get started anyway.
Why? Because the newly-empowered Democratic leadership has two years until the next presidential election. In those two years, they will need to fix as much as they can fix, forcefully and decisively enough to convince the American voters to "stay the new course" in 2008. Forget about blaming Bush and his administration - the entire world is already well aware of who is behind the disaster of the past six years. Nobody cares (or wonders) who created the mess. The voters gave Democrats a mandate to repair the damage, and the mandate expires in two years.
It's an impossible task to complete, even for the next president, but this new Democratic leadership will assuredly be held accountable in 2008 for two years of efforts that begin today. Republicans have had complete and unchecked power with George W. Bush, and didn't care one bit about who got run over as they ran roughshod over the U.S. and the world. It will take the same kind of grit to correct the disaster of the Bush administration. Half-hearted attempts won't do it. Warm and fuzzy dialogue won't do it. Political correctness sure won't do it. It's going to take sacrifice and decisiveness and teamwork void of ego or personal ambition.
You, the newly-empowered Democratic leadership, have a mission. The next two years are not a two-year campaign for president - it's a two-year mandate to get dirt under your fingernails, scrapes on your elbows, cuts and bruises, and a few of you may even have to "take one for the team". Everybody knows who broke it - you get to fix it, and guess what? The clock is already running. Teddy Roosevelt said to walk softly and carry a big stick. Instead, you would be well-advised to stomp loudly and aim that big stick often and with precision for the next two years. You've been elected for a purpose, and your report card will come in two years.
Steven A. Hass