Nov 142006
 
Authors: Ryan Speaker

I often find myself in such disagreement with the president that I rarely have an opportunity to quote him in a supportive manner. But in his post-election press conference, he stated: “If you look at race-by-race, it was close. The cumulative effect, however, was not too close.”

It is not easy to argue with that. Democrats “swept” the election, but they have no mandate. Many elections were incredibly close, and two of the more important races, Montana and Virginia, were won by margins of less than 1 percent.

Democrats are in an interesting situation: They were elected to affect changes, but will be unable to enact major partisan policies, as Republicans did after winning Congress in 1994. People are expecting major changes in the next two years, and Democrats could lose their majority in 2008 if they fail to deliver.

Nancy Pelosi, set to become the first female Speaker of the House, has set forth plans for Democrats’ first 100 hours in power.

Break lobbyists away from legislation. Enact all the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission; a report over the summer found that only a minority had been enacted, and many received failing grades. Raise the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour; this means the 25 percent of Americans 18 to 64 earning the minimum wage will make just $15,000 per year. Cut the interest rate on student loans, and make loans and grants more readily available.

The Democratic Congress also plans to attempt to lower the cost of prescription drugs, implement some sort of national health insurance plan and increase stem-cell research – all this while not adding to the budget deficit, which has skyrocketed in the last six years thanks to pork-laden legislation.

Side-note: it makes me chuckle a little that today’s Republicans brand some of these ideas “liberal,” which just 40 years ago under Goldwater Republicanism would have been branded conservative.

Also, it’s somewhat sad Angie Paccione did not win the 4th District, but she only lost by 3 percent. With that, I hope Marilyn Musgrave will be more considerate of her constituents these next two years. She should be aware that continuing as she has gone could very easily result in losing her seat next time around.

So, Democrats are in power, and they will need to exact many changes the majority of Americans will support if they hope to be in power longer than two years. The next relevant point in history, then, will be 2008.

Presidential hopefuls are already springing up, and there is little promise in the big ones. John McCain, who I often applauded before 2004, has become spineless. After the 2004 elections, pressed for his own presidential ambitions, he said we should elect George W. Bush for a third term!

He staunchly stood against the Military Commissions Act of 2006, until it became obvious that voting against President Bush on this one might cost him political capital for 2008.

Hillary Clinton… yes, she’s “liberal,” but not like Fox News would have you believe. She’s really a centrist, but she is so much a centrist that neither liberals nor conservatives really want to support her in 2008.

And last, Barack Obama. Intelligent, well spoken and can reach across the aisle for bipartisan support. But he has little national political experience, and that is a vital thing.

The prospect of the next two years has liberals smiling brightly. I think a lot of moderates are happy, too, and conservatives are probably at least hopeful.

This election just went to show Democrats can appeal to many without being communists, and that seems an important step. Now, they just have to be effective.

Ryan Speaker is a senior history major. His column appears every Wednesday in the Collegian. Replies and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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