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Six years of nearly unbroken one-party rule have not been healthy for the country…entrenched by gerrymandered redistricting into what they envisioned would be a permanent majority, Republicans slid toward lax oversight, unbridled partisanship and rampant sleaziness, if not outright corruption. Voters yesterday expressed their anger at President Bush and their frustration with the war in Iraq, as well as their disgust with the arrogant misbehavior of House Republicans.
The Democrats won a negative victory, riding on the wave of public anger about Republicans. The new House majority will certainly call the administration to account on any number of issues, but it will have to do far more than run investigations if it is to build on its victory.
For years now, the Democrats have been not only the minority party, but a particularly powerless minority, elbowed out of virtually any role other than that of critic. The House Democrats will have to shift from the role of tactical opposition to shadow government.
If ever a party deserved an electoral thumping, it was the GOP - long-since having abandoned its core principles, and mired in corruption and scandal.
However, the really big news is what the election wasn’t about - Iraq.
Indeed, when a pro-war independent Democrat (Joe Lieberman) wins while an anti-war Republican (Rhode Island’s Lincoln Chafee) loses, the overall result can’t exactly be called a referendum on the war.
Exit polls showed the issue that voters most cared about: ethics and the sense of corruption in Washington….
Congratulations to the Democrats for winning the House after a dozen years.
But, no one should forget what this means: The Republican majority grew lazy, arrogant and corrupt.
The LA Times says Democrats will be asking “What do we do now?”
“Part of the answer will be an attempt to parlay success in 2006 into a sequel in 2008, when the White House as well as Congress will be in play….”
But, warns the paper’s editorial, “The new Democratic chairmen of House committees should not turn right-wing conspiracy theorists into prophets by promiscuously initiating investigations of the Bush administration, corporations or other tempting targets for televised inquisitions. Responsible oversight is needed, but partisan show trials have a way of backfiring. In investigating, as in legislating, the Democrats may discover that less is more.”
While many prominent Democrats spent the campaign solemnly agreeing with President Bush’s view – which we share – that a U.S. pullout and defeat in Iraq would be catastrophic, the impulse to see Republican losses as a repudiation of this argument will be strong. At the least, we can expect a parade of congressional investigations related to Iraq that are meant to embarrass or even cripple the White House.
Perhaps this is inevitable. Perhaps, in a very, very narrow political sense, it is even deserved, given the abrupt treatment of House Democrats in recent years. But we hope cooler heads prevail.
By taking control of a lower chamber where they’ve been outnumbered for 12 long years, hungry Democrats on Tuesday won an opportunity to position themselves as the ascendant party as the 2008 election campaign - sorry - springs to life.
Over the last century, the party of second-term presidents has lost an average of five Senate seats and 29 House seats in midterm elections. By that standard, Tuesday’s Democratic pickups weren’t of tidal proportions. But the Democratic Party has what it has yearned for: a chamber it can call its own, a base from which to offer a Democratic alternative to administration policies.
Republicans in control of Congress alienated the conservative base with their free-spending ways in recent years, ballooning the deficit with pork-laden budgets. They also failed to produce progress on hot-button issues such as immigration reform.
But the real tipping point turning Congress toward Democratic control may have been recent revelations regarding now-former Rep. Mark Foley of Florida over sexually “inappropriate” e-mails sent to teenage congressional pages.
Nationally, it appears that independents and moderates made their voices heard Tuesday, with suburban women holding the key in a shifting balance of power. Perhaps voters are getting tired of extreme voices on both sides, ugly campaign tactics, and stark, false choices on the issues facing America.
Ironically, while Ohio voters believe that Republicans have been corrupt while in power, most don’t believe Democrats will be much better, according to the exit polls.
Long before the votes cast in Tuesday’s elections began to be tallied, reports from around the country indicated that significant problems remain in a process reformed to prevent a repeat of the 2000 Florida presidential election’s hanging chad debacle.
Despite having plenty of time to test and retest new electronic systems, election officials from New Jersey to Colorado struggled with malfunctions that resulted in long lines and in some cases voters’ being turned away from polling places. The problems were bipartisan, afflicting Democratic and Republican precincts.
The right to a free and fair vote is the essence of a functioning democracy. The confusion evident Tuesday calls out for continued improvement. Every electronic machine should produce a backup paper trail. Provisional paper ballots should be on hand in case the entire system goes down…
On the enforcement front, dirty tricks like robocalls should be banned. Attempts to intimidate voters should be prosecuted and punished.