The American public expects every level of government to solve problems; when government fails in this responsibility, the public responds by placing it under new leadership.
Last week, the American electorate expressed in the clearest of terms its dissatisfaction with the current leadership of the federal government. In what history may view as a watershed moment in American political history, voters turned Congress over to new leadership by establishing a Democratic majority in the House and the Senate. As of this writing, not a single incumbent Democrat has lost, and a number of close races in Republican-held seats are yet to be determined. Democrats, with the victory of Virginia Senator-elect Jim Webb, have a 51 to 49 seat majority in the Senate and in the House, its likely Democrats will enjoy at least a 30 seat majority.
While all politics is local, every once in a while elections are defined by national issues. That was the case this year with the focus being George Bush and Iraq. The public, clearly dissatisfied with the war in Iraq, expressed its frustration with the President’s "stay the course" policy that has cost us over 2,800 American lives and hundreds of billions of dollars by turning out in record numbers. In Virginia, voter turnout was the highest for a Congressional mid-term election in 24 years.
With their new position, Democrats in the House are prepared to start the new Congress in January by passing seven major legislative measures that will benefit the American people. These include a minimum wage increase, breaking the link between lobbyists and legislation, implementation of the 9/11 Commission recommendations, reducing the interest rate on student loans by half, overriding the President’s veto of stem cell research, lowering Medicare prescription drug prices by allowing the government to negotiate with drug companies, and restoring fiscal discipline by reinstating "pay as you go" budget rules.
With the privilege of leadership comes the responsibility to exercise it effectively. I know that Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader-in-waiting Harry Reid understand this. They are currently meeting with the President to discuss ways to work together in a bipartisan fashion to address the most pressing issues facing the nation, the most prominent of which is Iraq. While I am wary of the President’s recently stated willingness to work cooperatively with Democrats, I do believe there is a window for finding common ground before the ’08 Presidential race kicks into high gear.
So, it’s a new day in Washington. It’s now up to Democrats to show that they are prepared to address the message the public sent last Tuesday — people want ideas, actions and results that solve real problems; they will not put up with leadership that is concerned only with keeping power for power’s sake.
It is now the Democrats’ responsibility to you, the public, to make sure that the trust you have placed in us was not for naught.