I had voted absentee before I left the United States, and found myself up until the wee hours (Britain is five hours ahead of New York) watching the numbers roll in via CNN and MSNBC. That's because I'm in London at a conference, meeting with writers from around the western world, talking about issues such as intellectual property and new media technologies. But today, what they wanted to talk about were our election results.
As avidly as we Yanks, they huddled over laptops, watching the numbers trickle in from the close Senate races in Montana and Virginia. It remains unfortunate and true that other countries know and care far more about our government and politics than we do theirs.
As my international friends offered their cheers and good wishes, my thoughts wandered back to a moment in 1972, when, after losing a presidential primary, the late Democratic congressman and wit Mo Udall gracefully conceded defeat. "The people have spoken," he said. "The bastards."
I imagined President Bush saying much the same thing late Tuesday night when Karl Rove, aka Turd Blossom, gave him the news. Then, on the heels of the Republicans' repudiation came the long overdue resignation of the secretary of defense. His policy of "transformation" that created a military fatally short-handed, ill-advized and ill-equipped, finally done him in. Heckuva job, Rummy.
Still, this is no time to gloat. Okay, maybe gloat just a little, perform a modified Snoopy dance, congratulate one another for overcoming the advantages of incumbency and surviving a campaign of nonpareil viciousness, slime and perfidy. But, as Robert Redford's character in "The Candidate" says after he wins his seat in the U.S. Senate, "What do we do now?"
There is much to be done. Just for starters, increase the minimum wage, enact the antiterrorism recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Report, engage in direct negotiations with the pharmaceutical companies for lower, Medicare prescription drug prices. Scour clean the relationship between professional lobbyists, their corporate backers and Congress -- eliminate the earmarks that salt the pork barrel and then punish those who would abuse the public trust for private gain.
Investigate not only that corruption, but also the graft that has enriched contractors in Iraq and the tortuous path that led us there. Look carefully at the upcoming recommendations from James Baker and Lee Hamilton on our future course in Iraq. Address global warming, stem cell research and other areas of legitimate scientific inquiry stymied by the White House. Balance the budget.
These are tall orders, especially with a chief executive stubborn in his power. But with their Tuesday success, the Democrats have cultivated some star talent who tested and proved their mettle in the course of a pulverizing political season. For example, Senators-elect John Whitehouse from Rhode Island, Missouri's Claire McCaskill and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.
In the House, if he chooses to run for the spot, Illinois Congressman. Rahm Emanuel, the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee who helped engineer this national victory, will make a hard, take-no-prisoners majority whip.
Democratic Governors-elect Chet Culver of Iowa and Martin O'Malley of Maryland also are two to watch. I spent some time talking with O'Malley last spring and found him one of the most articulate, intelligent and dynamic politicians I've met in a long time.
So, enter the Age of Reason, please. In the last weeks of the campaign, as he stumped for Democratic candidates across the country, Bill Clinton said Democratic policy on Iraq was not, contrary to the president's accusation, "Cut and run." Instead, he said, it was, "Stop and think."
On Tuesday, America stopped, thought and voted for change in a big way. As they might say over here in the land of Shakespeare, our winter of discontent is made glorious summer by this hard-won victory. Now comes the time for Democrats to unite and prove they can make something of it..
It's theirs to lose.
© 2006 Messenger Post Newspapers
Michael Winship, Writers Guild of America Award winner and former writer with Bill Moyers, writes for the Messenger Post Newspapers in upstate New York
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Albion Monitor November
8, 2006 (http://www.albionmonitor.com)
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