I’m the eternal optimist — even in the realm of contemporary politics, where optimism is as out of place as an oyster on an ice cream sundae. So while my friends agonize over which political party will have control of Congress come January, I like to point out that, regardless of which way things turn out, this election will almost certainly result in a number of positive trends:
- Gridlock: I’m one of those people who prefers the executive and the legislative branch to be held by opposing parties — a philosophy has been thoroughly vindicated in the last four years, dont’cha think? And while Democrats may not take the Senate, one thing is clear: Bush will no longer have a rubber stamp at his disposal, drawing this chapter of Ideologues Gone Wild! to a close. I know many would like the Democrats to spend the next few years investigating and impeaching members of the Bush administration, but that’s the wrong way to go: the solution to polarization is not further divisiveness. And, anyway, I think the Dems would get clobbered in 2008 if they went this route. Worse, Bush would view prosecution as persecution, and settle comfortably into his role as a martyr. Better to simply frustrate his agenda for the next few years and let him serve our his term an impotent lame duck. I mean, look how cranky he became when he couldn’t gut Social Security — seeing his frowny, petulant face on the news every evening filled my heart with joy.
- The Democratic Party Will Have To Cough Up An Agenda: The only reason the Dems are poised to make gains this go-round is because the Republicans are imploding. But the electorate, having Thrown Out the Bums this year, will cheerfully elect shiny new Republicans in 2008 and 2010 unless the Democrats offer some sort of compelling vision. Best of all, without Bush to run against in the next presidential election, Democratic candidates will have to do more than just walking around in a t-shirt reading “I’m Running Against Stupid.”
- Republicans Will Again Welcome Actual Conservatives: The biggest fallout from this campaign for the GOP isn’t the loss of congressional seats or governorships, but that the whole “Republicans are the party of conservatives” has been exposed as the fraud it’s long become. Democrats have adopted the rhetoric (and, let’s hope, the mantle) of fiscal responsibility, and unless Repubs want to become known as the party of “big government,” they’re going to have to fend off this encroachment on what had been one of their signature issues. In a perfect world both parties would compete to outdo each other in economic rectitude and we’d have this whole deficit squared away by the time the last Harry Potter book is released.
- Third Party Candidates: I’m not a fan of Lieberman (I can’t look at him and not remember his crowing about being “in a three-way-tie for third place,” possibly the most pathetic declaration in a presidential election rife with wince-worthy moments), but I’m all for more people running as Independents.
- The Course, It Is A Changin’: The White House has chosen an eleventh-hour “Change The Rhetoric, Stay The Course” gambit in regards to the war, but I have no doubt our Iraq policy will finally be changing. For one thing, James Baker’s report is going to drop like a hammer; for another, Bush is going to have a hard time backing away from his promise of “benchmarks.” Plus, see point one: Gridlock is a a cynical word for “Oversight.” I don’t pretend to know what we should be do in Iraq from this point forward, but I know that “same old same old” ain’t doin’ the trick.