The citizens of the United States spoke yesterday, and gave the Democratic Party control of the House of Representatives, a majority of governorships in the country, and probably control of the U.S. Senate. Many of the commentators and political pundits are saying it was like the Republican takeover of the House and Senate in 1994. I disagree.
Yesterday's election did not give Democrats any kind of mandate, and I hope they realize that. This election was far more about voting against Republicans than it was about voting for Democrats. The exit polls showed than this election was driven by two issues -- the war in Iraq, and Republican corruption.
Americans were sending a message to Bush. They were saying, "We're tired of the corruption, and we want to get out of this war that we never should have gotten into. Since the president won't listen to our pleas for peace and better government, we'll give him a Congress that won't cooperate." I believe the people voted for "divided government" last night -- a government in which neither party can push any agenda without real debate and compromise.
One other issue cut across party lines last night and proved to be a winner in both red and blue states -- raising the minimum wage. This issue passed in every state where it was on the ballot, and it did not seem to matter whether those states were voting for Republicans or for Democrats. I think this issue could have passed in any state.
So while the election did not give the Democratic Party a mandate, it did provide them with a roadmap of what Americans want from their government right now. I hope the Democrats are smart enough to read that map and act accordingly.
When the Democrats assume control of the Congress next January, they should immediately set out to do three things:
1. Raise the minimum wage. Nearly all the polls taken in the last year have shown that around 75% of Americans are in favor of this. Last night we saw that the minimum wage issue is a winner in both red and blue states.
2. Reinstate the Ethics Committee and give it enough power to do its job. Then rein in the power of the K street lobbyists. Americans are disgusted with corruption from both parties and want to see a change.
3. Start a serious dialogue on how to extricate ourselves from the war in Iraq. Most Americans don't want to just withdraw from Iraq, but they do want to end the war as quickly as possible and bring our troops home. They want an honorable way to end the war.
If the Democrats are smart enough to do these three things before they do anything else, they could find that in 2008 the people would vote for Democrats and not just against Republicans. The Democrats have been given a golden opportunity to win back the hearts of the people. I hope they don't blow it.