After the midterms of November 2006, the Democrats, with control of the House and Senate, appear to be in the ascendancy in Congress. The electorate of America seemingly made a stand against a ‘do-nothing’ Republican Congress. Now the Democrats will control both houses and will have the pick of the chairs on Congressional committees. President Bush can use his presidential veto but having used it only once in the last six years, to many it will seem undemocratic if he decides to use it with a Democrat controlled Congress - having used it just once in a Republican controlled Congress between 2004 and 2006.
The Democrats have already stated what will be included in their ‘100 Hours’. Nancy Pelosi, Speaker-in-waiting, has already outlined what the country can expect:
1) Bringing in legislation to break the link between lobbyists and legislators.
2) Bringing in the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.
3) Raising the national minimum wage
4) Expanding stem cell research
5) Limiting spending
In the longer term, the Democrats plan to tackle the issue of health care, climate change and the budget deficit.
The first has always been a contentious issue with a number of powerful interest groups willing to make a stand against any significant changes to the current provision of health care. Similarly, there are a number of powerful interest groups who would be willing to use their political clout if any major reforms involving the environment were seen to be trespassing on their financial well being. Cuts in the budget to reduce America’s spiralling budget deficit will also be difficult especially while America has a significant financial outlay in both Afghanistan and Iraq. If the Democrats make it plain that they plan to tackle these major issues but fail to make any significant inroads into them – then the Republicans will make political capital out of this.
Ironically, the defeat at the midterms may do the Republicans a lot of good. Clearly, the voters were less than impressed with the party in various political areas. If over the next year, the party’s central hierarchy can sort this out and present the party to the electorate as a party that is now in tune with the public and without any scandal – a decent 2008 campaign may see another Republican president.
Ironically, if the Democrats – as the hub of legislative reform – are seen to be falling short of their ‘promises’ between January 2007 and the presidential campaign in 2008, they may suffer at the hands of the electorate. A failure to reduce the deficit may lead to charges of fiscal incompetence – especially as all fiscal change starts in the House. It would also leave the party open to the charge of – if they cannot run the nation’s finances, would you trust them to defend the nation? Those skilled in the art of negative campaigning would have a field day.
Though the Democrats are understandably on a political high at present (November 2006) there is much time between now and the presidential election. If the Democrats fail to make an impression in Congress over the next two years, the ‘thumping’ that the Republicans got in the midterms may not be as disastrous as it seems – especially if the party reorganises itself and takes stock of what happened in November 2006. However, if the Democrats make a positive impression in Congress, the chances of a Republican victory would be slim.
Both parties will need to present to the public a dream team – a ‘dream ticket’. For the Republicans this could be John McCain and Condo Rice; it could be Jed Bush and John McCain. Rudy Guiliani could also play a part. For the Democrats, it could be Hilary Clinton and Obama Barak or Al Gore and Hilary Clinton. John Edwards may also play a part. John Kerry may not recover politically from his gaffe during the 2006 midterm campaign.
All of these could be seen as political heavyweights – so the campaign could prove to be interesting.