From A.B. Stoddard, Associate Editor of The Hill newspaper
On Wednesday Republicans, wet and weary from the wave that knocked them from power in the House, can look back just 12 years to remember that victory on election night is the easy part. This power shift, of immense consequence, was nonetheless created by Republicans.
Democrats don't have a revolution, a Contract with America, just the gift of GOP scandals and the GOP's governing failures. Can they answer the Iraq problem and assuage the anger of so many Americans who voted Republicans out of power because of the war? Not so fast.
Bush remains in power for two more years and within the Democratic party there is nothing close to consensus behind any of the options under discussion -- more troops, immediate withdrawal, redeployment to surrounding countries or the decentralization plan that would divide power among the Sunni, Shiite and Kurds.
In domestic policy, on shifting the tax burden, balancing the budget, raising the minimum wage, or reforming the Medicare law, will Democrats easily shift to governing after being in the opposition business for so long? The party ran the table with conservative candidates like Brad Ellsworth in Indiana and Heath Shuler in North Carolina -- who Republicans themselves had previously attempted to recruit.
These pro-gun, pro-life Democrats who oppose gay marriage aren't likely to mix well with liberal chairmen who have been walking the wilderness since 1994, like chairmen like Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) who will run the Judiciary committee, Charlie Rangel (D-NY) who will run the Ways and Means committee or John Dingell (D-Mi.) who will run the Commerce committee. But rest assured that the leadership run by Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) -- the first woman speaker of the House of Representatives -- will dance with the ones that brung them.
There will be days that will be easy and other days, with the angry activist left breathing down their back, when it will be wrenching. Why? Because the job isn't finished for the Come Back Party -- the campaign can't stop until they win back the White House. The window of time between January, when Pelosi becomes speaker and Democrats actually take power, and the beginning of the '08 race is so small its hard to see through.
Once it closes the Democrats have to start acting, well, sort of like Republicans if they want to keep their eyes on the prize of the presidency. The presumed frontrunner, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), a pro-war Democrat who has remodeled herself as a centrist, summed it up well after crushing her Republican opponent by 40 percentage points Tuesday night.
Clinton said she voted for change, except for herself.