A New Mandate?
The Elephant kneels. The Donkey Squeals.
The GOP shuffles to the minority position in both houses of Congress.
The Democrats ascend within the State Houses.
The American People have spoken. The party of the "Blue States" holds up a shining mandate for change. The Administration must seek conciliation with the party for whom they've battered in partisan warfare. Everything's changed.
Or has it?
Dan Baltz of the Washington Post believes that the President must now create a common accord with the Democrats, especially regarding the policy on Iraq:
The president took the most dramatic step yesterday in acknowledging how much the landscape has changed. At a midday news conference he announced that he had accepted the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who has come to symbolize the administration's apparent unwillingness to change a policy that has failed to bring order to Iraq and that has lost popular support at home. Bush said it is time for "a fresh perspective" on the war.
"I recognize that many Americans voted last night to register their displeasure with the lack of progress being made there," he said. "Yet I also believe that most Americans and leaders here in Washington from both political parties understand we cannot accept defeat."
If Bush was willing to dismiss Rumsfeld, which the president said only a week ago that he had no intention of doing, it was in part because he and his party have so much at risk. Tuesday's elections proved to be a reaction not only against the war and the corruption scandals that have scarred Congress but also against the kind of base-driven politics that Bush used in 2004 to win a second term.
That model has often elevated policies and tactics designed to energize conservative activists over an appeal to what many GOP strategists saw as a shrinking middle of the electorate. But on Tuesday, the center struck back, voting decisively for Democratic candidates in House races.
The president responded with a renewed call for bipartisan cooperation, saying leaders on both sides should resist the temptation to divide the country into red and blue. "By putting this election and partisanship behind us, we can launch a new era of cooperation and make these next two years productive ones for the American people," he said.
Nevertheless, The Democrats recognize that they, too, must cooperate with the Republican minority. Presumed Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi says as much:
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), in line to become the nation's first female speaker in January, also spoke to what is now widely seen among leaders in both parties as a rejection of partisan polarization.This could be political posturing on her part. For her party's sake, it had better not be. The election was not a referandum on the Democrats' success; it was an indictment on the Republicans' failure. The conservatives rebuked the party for it's leaderships utter failure to honor conservative ideals.
"The American people spoke out for a return to civility to the Capitol in Washington and how Congress conducts its work," she said in her first news conference after the election. "And Democrats pledge civility and bipartisanship in the conduct of the work here, and we pledge partnerships with the Republicans in Congress and the president, not partisanship."
Bush and Pelosi will meet today to try to begin to forge a relationship that could be critical to both their parties' futures and that will color the atmosphere as the 2008 campaigns take shape.
The Democrats won their majority through the shrewd decision to run conservative or center-right candidates in conservative regions and states. Even so, their electoral gains were modest, considering the President's 38% approval rating. If they truly had a mandate, they would have had a landslide victory.
The new majority had better recognize that the American Public has offered them government on probation. If they exibit the arrogance and partisanship that their rabid far-left base demands--and the petulant, power-grabbing neo-right egotism their defeated opponents espoused--then they'll watch their "mandate" wither to dust in '08.