The Democrats’ icon is a donkey. A jackass, as legend would have it, was first defiantly embraced by Democrat Andrew Jackson in the face of fierce mudslinging from his political rivals. While it is oddly comforting that a political party would choose to embrace a symbol which is so expressive of the ire regular citizens tend to hold for their politicians, a more fitting specimen from the animal kingdom may be a turtle, or an ostrich, or an armadillo, or any other creature who carries a stigma of timidity, of hiding itself away from the dangers of the world. This is how I feel about the party I support.
Garry Trudeau, during the Clinton administration, used to render the president as a waffle dripping with butter. This is the frustration the rank and file has with the Democratic Party. They seem to blow with the wind in any direction they think will get them votes. This has left them open to charges that they lack concrete principles to stand on. It also makes them appear to be opportunists and panderers. It makes them seem as if they care about an issue solely on how it polls. This list could go on and on, but in the end, it makes the Democrats seem incapable of leading this country, since it is almost impossible to pin down any given Democrat’s views on the major issues facing this country. And that is a shame, because the Democrats are about to find themselves in power in Congress for the first time in twelve years.
There are unrealistically high expectations for what they will be capable of achieving with their new majority. More than likely, the Senate will remain in Republican hands, but if the House does not change hands once the votes are counted in two weeks, it will be a shock. If a split Congress is the case, there is no reason to expect Democratic legislation to have an easy time making its way to the president’s desk for his signature. Even then, expect President Bush to begin using his veto eagerly for bills that are too blue.
This election has become a referendum on the Bush administration, but what is lost to many voters is that this election is just the first step towards repairing the damage this administration has done. A Democratic Congress in 2007 won’t fix anything, but it will stop the bleeding. The right-wing ideologues of the GOP will no longer hold Congress hostage, nor will the president. Workers in Ohio who reject their incumbent Republican representative because they think a Democrat will get their job back from overseas will be sorely disappointed, as will liberal Democrats who have dreams of far-reaching social legislation. The real reversal in this nation’s direction will come only after the 2008 presidential elections. This election is only step one.
While a Democratic win in two weeks is important for the future of the country, the question remains as to whether they are up to the task. It is a testament to the current sad state of the Democratic Party that at this moment, when the other party controls both the White House and Congress, and there is a lively debate about where both institutions should reside on their respective “worst ever” lists, there is still a question about whether the Democrats can be victorious. A common joke now is that the Democrats may somehow manage to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory at the last moment. It does not bode well that while the people of this country are unhappy with their leadership, and are poised to affect a changeover, our anointed saviors can at best be described as adrift.
Despite appearances, I am optimistic, but also realistic. It’s going to take more than an election to fix this nation. It’s going to take a lot of hard work by our leadership. Eventually, even we, as citizens or residents, may be asked to make sacrifices. Once power lands in the lap of the Democrats, I am optimistic that some of them, at least, will have the leadership abilities and political acumen that will be necessary for the difficult job ahead. But whom?