All Out of Political Capital
When George W. Bush was re-elected President in 2004 (assuming that you believe that he actually was honestly re-elected, something I've never become sanguine about where Ohio was concerned), he strutted around like a peacock, telling reporters glibly at his first post-election press conference that
Let me put it to you this way: I've earned capital in this campaign. Political capital. And now I intend to spend it.
So tell me, Mr. President:
How does it feel to be BROKE?
I think of Bush's rapid descent into political poverty much as I think about the fate most lottery winners face. One day the person finds themselves with a windfall, more money than they ever dreamed. And their dreams quickly control, and consume them. Moderation goes out the window, and self-control right after it.
Which is why so many of them go bust, rather quickly.
That's sort of the situation Emperor Bush finds himself in this morning. Only 2 years after he supposedly earned all that "political capital" winning a shady election that mobilized the left against a sitting president all across the country in record numbers, since we rightfully saw it as a "Vote or Die" moment where America's future was concerned, Bush is already politically bankrupt. You know that with certainty, when 40% of voters in a midterm election say that their votes are votes against the sitting President.
So he's skin. Tapped. Broke down busted broke. Left with a House of Representatives who clearly won't do his bidding. And only the dream of a miracle recount pull-out in Montana and Virginia to give him hope of keeping the Senate (which, of course, can't pass a bill without the House anyway.) And faced with the leadership of ALL FOUR BRANCHES OF HIS MILITARY telling their Commander in Chief "the hard, bruising truth" publicly on the eve of a national election that he'd better shape up, and ship out the megalomaniacal architect of his war policy in Iraq, Mr. Donald Rumsfeld. (Even as they left out the "or else" part.)
It couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.
I am not going to be giddy and delirious as most of the left wing undoubtedly is today, and claim that yesterday's shift of power in the House (and likely the Senate, with Democrats ahead in both Montana and Virginia in nailbiter races that have even me on pins and needles) is the result of some sort of progressive mandate. Sorry, but many of the Democrats elected yesterday come in at varying degrees of Republican Lite on the issues that are most important to me. Nor am I going to pretend that it was the glorious rise of anti-war sentiment at a moral level -- even as it is clear that at at the national pocketbook and human cost level, yesterday's results are inextricably entwined to national dismay about the Iraq War and its costs.
And I'm sorry, but how excited can progressives possibly be over Nancy Pelosi, Ms. "Impeachment is Off the Table", knowing that she cannot hold together the majority coalition she gained last night in 2008 if she alienates the states that sent Democratic centrists to the office to send a message, by voting Blue for the first time in many years?
Common sense tells you that this is not truly a "New Direction" for America, more likely a slight left turn. But that's s still great, of course, compared to the hard-right nightmare of the last six years.
What I am going to do is be very happy, nonetheless, that at least for two years, we won't see anymore midnight bills, bullshit grandstanding over unimportant issues (who cares if people gamble online?), Terri Schiavo grand theatre, any more Supreme Court stalking horses like Samuel Alito, or even the indignities of a ranking congressman forced to hold congressional hearings in a basement because he isn't allowed to reserve a regular hearing room by the opposition majority.
All that will be a relief, because I was bone tired of seeing Congress' behavior reflect our ongoing national descent into ignorance day after day, at the hands of the Republican majority in the House and Senate.