Like many of my fellow Democrats, I follow the midterm election prospects quite closely these days. This is probably the first midterm election of my life for which I’ve been quite this interested. Perhaps like many of my generation, nearly every election I can remember either being involved and interested was a Presidential one, even back in school. I can remember even the strange third party candidacies of my younger life — John Anderson’s strangely Naderesque performance against Carter and Reagan in 1980, for example. But I don’t remember most midterm elections directly: it seems that all of my knowledge of 1994’s key midterm, for example, comes from reading done well after the fact.
So this midterm election is quite different, in my experience. Although I follow Electoral-Vote.com near-daily right now, I still think it’s too early to say whether Democrats will retake either house of Congress (either that, or I just don’t want to jinx it by admitting optimism in writing…). I’ll repeat the mantra one reads so often this week: turnout is everything. So rather than talking about how we are going to win, I’d like to say a few things about what happens if we were to win one or both houses.
There has been a lot of punditry lately on this subject, so I’m not going to repeat the usual things about investigations, impeachments, and the like. Impeachment is not going to happen and arguably the Democrats shouldn’t be within 100 yards of anyone saying it should. Much as a serious attack on President Bush might serve as catharsis for many committed Democrats, it doesn’t really deliver the one thing Americans actually want: effective, efficient government that doesn’t overstep its bounds or become embroiled in scandal. Believe it or not, Democrats want this as much as do Republicans. And we always have (we just differ on what we think is included in the scope of "effective" and what goals are "within legitimate bounds"). Investigation will likely occur, and should, but arguably it must be focused on policy, not people; achieving results, not holding witch hunts. Not only will witch hunts play into the hands of Republicans for the 2008 election cycle, but they would merely demonstrate that we’re no different than the politicians we oppose.
So let’s talk substance instead of revenge. Let’s talk about the things that matter not over an election cycle or two, but for decades. If — maybe just if — the Democrats retake one or both houses of Congress this November, what should dominate our agenda, and shape our discourse?