We Threw the Bums Out! OK, So Now What?


Postmortem thoughts.

Well, the Republicans are out in the House (and probably the Senate pending recounts), which is what is supposed to happen when those in power rule with hedonistic disregard for the welfare of their constituency, so I'll not shed a tear. I'm bummed, however, that Santorum lost to an empty suit running on his father's legacy and that neither of the two African American Republicans I was rooting for - Michael Steele in Maryland and Ken Blackwell in Ohio - pulled it off.

The only problem with democracy working is that now the Democrats are running things. Are you ready to be inspired?

Nancy Pelosi: "The Democrats intend to lead the most honest, the most open and the most ethical Congress in history."

How's that for an agenda? We promise not to be corrupt!

Actually, it's not a bad idea. If the Democrats govern according to their actual mandate - to clean up government and get us out of Iraq - then great! There will be a real problem, however, if they act as if they have some broad policy mandate.

The Democrats should realize that their majority hinges on pissed off Republicans, and if they overreach the tide will quickly turn back. If the Democrats raise the minimum wage, pass serious earmark reform, hold productive hearings on the real point of our presence in Iraq and whether we have sound, achievable goals that justify our presence there, then the next session of Congress will be a success, and voters might reward them. Over-reaching would be to raise taxes unreasonably, to push for amnesty for illegal immigrants without real border control and - specifically in the Senate - to deny the president any conservative nominees to judicial vacancies. That will make the pendulum swing faster than it otherwise would.

This was a vote against an undefined Iraq policy, pork-barrel spending, corporate give-aways and rampant Republican corruption. A smart Democratic majority would clean house in those areas. I would love to see lobbyists and members of Congress brought up on charges and thrown in jail. I would love to see actual Congressional reviews of the contracts we gave to private companies in Iraq. A lot could be done on those fronts in two years, and no Republican looking at what happened yesterday could oppose it.

One of the bright spots is that here in Illinois, the Green Party candidates did surprisingly well. While I have no particular love for the Greens, I'm big on third parties. If the Greens can split the liberal vote, that would make it easier for authentic conservatives to break the Republican party and make it easier for solid candidates who represent the views of actual people to run. Maybe it's a pipe-dream, but it's better than the notion that I'll be choosing between Judys and Rods for the rest of my life.

As for the pro-life movement, there is no relief in sight. We'll have mostly gridlock on any pro-life legislation, and if, as it's been rumored, John Paul Stevens steps down, there will be a war in the Senate for his replacement, and it's unlikely we will get somebody with a known stance on abortion. As for 2008, the Republican field looks grim: pro-abort Giuliani, "Maverick" McCain, Mitt freaking Romney, and no other serious candidates. Sure, a lot can happen between now and then... except that any realistic candidate needs to declare themselves within the next few months in order to get the organization and fundraising together to mount a serious campaign. So that leaves... who? Huckabee? Brownback? I like 'em both, but I can't see voters on the coasts punching either of those tickets. So it looks like gridlock for two years and then if the Republicans can't make gains back in the Senate in 2008, we'll most likely have a pro-abortion president with not enough pro-lifers in the Senate to stop him or her.

On most other subjects, though, gridlock is good. I don't really mind if nothing gets done in the next two years. Congress was out of control and change was necessary, but I'm glad that we still have a Republican president who can veto any nonsense that comes out of Congress. As I said before, Democrats would be wise to stick to Iraq and ethics reform. They probably won't be able to do much else anyway.

So what could they actually get done?

A minimum wage hike would be a good thing, and Bush wouldn't dare veto it.

If the Democrats are wise, they won't go whole-hog on tax hikes and will focus instead on ending corporate giveaways. There would be tremendous support for ending subsidies to oil companies, so that would be a good starting point. Many of Bush's tax cuts, however, were very pro-family, and the Dems will be shooting themselves in the foot if they get rid of them.

The estate tax will stick around, which is good. But if the Dems were really smart, they would carve out certain exceptions where the estate tax would not apply - such as for family farms and family businesses (under, say $10 million). For non-farm and non-business estates, they could create a limit - say $500,000 per person. Any bequest to an individual under that amount is tax free, any amount over is taxed agressively. This would take care of the actual problem - large chunks of inherited wealth passing from generation to generation while growing more and more consolidated - while simultaneously taking care of the (very few) people who suffer actual hurt from the estate tax.

What about the Republicans? Well, they should get on board with the minimum wage hike. That's not a place you want to be seen as obstructionist. They should participate fully (to the extent the Dems let them) with any investigations the Democrats initiate. And as for lobbying and earmark reform - after a thrashing based 50% on corruption, obstructing ethics reform would be the last nail in the coffin, so the Republicans need to get on board there, too.

What agenda of their own could they promote? They should push hard on things like abortion and judges. They should push hard on abortion laws such as parental notification, interstate transport and late-term abortions. Even if this push goes nowhere, they need to make the so called "pro-life Democrats" take a stand on these issues. We'll see whether Bob Casey Jr. is actually pro-life or if he's all talk, which is more likely, though I'd be happy to be shown wrong.

Democrats will probably stall any good judicial nominees over the next two years. Republican senators need to make a lot of noise about this. It's a winning issue for Republicans, and they may be able to peel off enough moderate Democrats to get some decent judges confirmed, and if not, they can still portray the Democrats as obstructionist even with a Democrat majority.

And finally, they should fight any tax raises the Dems try to implement on the middle class. If the Democrats want to create a new tax bracket for those who earn more than $200,000, let them, that's what Democrats do, but fight anything below that hard.

Of course, the number one thing the Republicans need to do is clean their own house. It would be great in 2008 to see Republican Congressmen receiving primary challenges from actual conservatives, holding their feet to the fire on things such as rubber-stamping the Bush Administration and being beholden to lobbyists.

And there, dear friends, is your year's supply of Papa-Lu wonkery.

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This page contains a single entry by Papa-Lu published on November 9, 2006 8:08 AM.

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