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Keeping What We've Been Given

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Standing with our collective mouths agape, simply unable to look away, Americans spent their early autumn incredulously watching not just the usual football and fair foliage, but the Republican Party's slow dissolve. Absolute power, as Lord Acton once sagely warned it would, did finally corrupt absolutely. This is an old story, one as old as mankind, relearned by each generation of leaders only to be quickly forgotten by the next.

The October Surprise was that the month came and went with no surprises. For weeks, the nation held its collective breath, half-expecting a wouldn't-put-it-past-them pre-election staging of George W. Bush personally dragging bin Laden by his beard out of his bat cave, or some Gulf of Tonkin-like "attack" on the recently-arrived U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf perfectly synchronized with a lapdog-media hyping of the new White House applause line - "It was Iran who has been the gravest threat all along to our McWalMart way of life! Don't worry, we'll save you!".

October's lamb gave way to November's lion, as the Democrats finally translated their witty way with bumper-stickers into control of both houses of Congress. For the next biennium, the nation will hold its collective breath. Having not held the reins of power in the House for twelve long years, do Democrats still even know how to ride the horse?

Democrats certainly can't do any worse than these hapless Republicans. A rider-less horse is just what we've had this past congressional session, a horse unbridled and left to run away with our nation's fiscal discipline and moral clarity all because these Republican cowboys were too busy trying to close the gates on one powerlust-induced scandal after another. Just getting this runaway horse back into the corral will be an improvement.

But if the Democrats intend during these next two years to spend their newly won power - if backing into power as a result of your opponents' corruption and malfeasance can really be considered "winning" - lusting for blood, rather than tending to the nation's long-neglected business, they will succeed only in strengthening the already even-odds of a regrouped and redisciplined Republican Party not only taking back Congress in 2008, but keeping the White House firmly in their control as well.

While voters resoundingly gave both houses of Congress back to the Democrats on November 7th, Democrats must clearly understand what it is that they have been given: a mere two-year opportunity to demonstrate why they deserve a shot at measuring for new curtains in the Oval Office in 2008. It isn't much time, and there's too much work to be done to waste time sharpening the hatchet.

If Democrats can resist vengeance, and instead work tirelessly to rouse an angry country to face its real villains - our energy overdependence on the Middle East, our looming health care collapse, our educational unreadiness for the 21st-century economy, and our out-of-control transfer of carbon from earth to sky - they will have proven themselves a capable alternative, willing unlike the other political party to put principle over power and to face the tough issues that all of us are facing together in this young century. Their hold on power will remain safe or even grow.

And if they can't, if they use their newfound power in pursuits meant solely to quench their bloodlust, Democrats will be two years henceforth turned out once again. Democratic leaders will have joined their present Republican colleagues in ignoring Lord Acton's warning, to the tragic and lasting detriment of this nation's pressing business.
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Todd Huffman is a pediatrician and writer living in Eugene, Oregon. He is a regular contributor to many newspapers and publications throughout the Pacific Northwest.
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