Election Day 2006 was a very good day for American democracy, for obvious reasons: it showed that dozens of Congressional districts could in fact be “in play” despite the well-known excesses of gerrymandering, and it was long-sought proof that there is, finally, some accountability for gross failures of judgment, execution, competence, and vision. After running two gubernatorial campaigns in Texas and one presidential campaign (his first) on themes of accountability, responsibility, and facing up to mistakes, George W. Bush has imposed almost none of it on his administration. Two word proof: Donald Rumsfeld.
(Don’t remember the “accountability” theme? It was how he polished off Ann Richards in their first debate back in 1994, as described here.)
Also: to be free at last of the phrase, “the genius of Karl Rove.” Not to mention, “the Republican ground game.” Hallelujah.
And: to know that however the Virginia recount turns out, George Allen is never going to be a presidential nominee.
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Here is a less obvious reason that it matters: Life is about to become dramatically more pleasant, positive, and effective for Americans in their dealings with every other part of the world. Most other countries disagreed with the decision to go to war in Iraq, but March 2003, when the war began, wasn’t the low point in Americans’ ability to operate overseas. The low point came in November, 2004, when—after Abu Grahib, after Guantanamo, after Osama bin Laden’s escape, after the catastrophe of post-war Iraq, after “oops, no WMD”—a democratic electorate returned the Bush administration to office. Yes, it was narrow. Yes, the outcome was in some ways rigged. But the results were the results. The public had no real chance to vote on Iraq war plans ahead of time. It had a chance to ratify them in the 2004 elections—and in the world’s eyes, that is exactly what it did.
Since then, you haven’t often heard non-Americans say, “I disagree with the US government, but I like the American people.” The American people—or enough of them—signed up for another stint with the administration that had made these decisions. This is more than a minor burden and obstacle in operating as an American anyplace else these days.
And now that can change. Sure, it will probably all end in tears for Speaker Pelosi and the Democratic Congress. But for now, there is reason to celebrate.