NEW YORK--"A second marriage," wrote Samuel Johnson, "is the triumph of hope over experience." Last week, I explained that the Beltway politicians running the Democratic Party don't plan major changes should they win big in the mid-term elections. Nancy Pelosi and her fellow neo-nons are so scared of being called weak on national security that they'll continue to waste billions of dollars and thousands of bodies on Afghanistan and Iraq. There won't be any investigations of the Bush Administration's actions over the last six years, much less impeachment hearings.
We have every reason to expect nothing from the Dems. Nothing is exactly what they gave us the last time we put them in charge. If the polls are correct, we're going to vote for them anyway. One more time: the triumph of hope over experience.
If Democrats retake one or both houses of Congress, it won't be thanks to their soaring rhetoric or sub-basement ambitions but rather to the millions of Americans who formerly supported the GOP but now reject Bush and his works. "I voted for Bush twice," a 40-year-old supermarket clerk told columnist Bob Herbert in South Bend, Indiana, a conservative stronghold. "Now I just want him gone."
Independent voters, key to a right-wing surge that began with Ronald Reagan's win in 1980, are deserting the Republican Party. Two out of three plan to go Democratic this year, finds the latest Washington Post--ABC News poll. Swing voters cite Iraq as their primary concern, more than the economy, by a widening margin. But the D.C. Democrats shouldn't take their newfound indie supporters for granted.
"About half of those independents saying they plan to vote Democratic in their district said they were doing so primarily to vote against the Republican candidate rather than affirmatively in support of the Democratic candidate," found the Post poll. "Just 22 percent of independents voting for Democrats are doing so 'very enthusiastically.'"
Current modeling projections depict the Senate results as a toss-up and the House of Representatives almost certainly going Democratic. If, as seems likely, Democrats take the House, independents will expect--and have the right to expect--their Democratic-majority Congress to pull out all the stops in the fight to bring an end to the Bushists' six-year reign of error.
Among the top items the wish list of pro-Democratic voters (yellow-dog diehards and newfound indies alike):
Get Out of Iraq Now: Bob Corker, a Republican running a notably dirty campaign for Senate in Tennessee, favors "break[ing] down this discussion that's either a 'cut and run' strategy or a 'stay the course' strategy. Somewhere in between, we've got to figure out new ways of solving the problems that we have in Iraq." But "in between" is pure fantasy. 71 percent of Iraqis want us out of Iraq in less than a year. Why wait to pull out when the only result will be more dead and wounded?
Roll Back the Police State: Most pundits think Republicans are unbeatable on the "war on terrorism." They're wrong. More Americans trust Democrats to fight terrorists than Republicans, by a six-point margin in the latest Newsweek poll--47 to 41 percent.
People understand that the Bush Administration doesn't care about fighting terrorists. Instead of searching for Osama they've exploited fear of another 9/11 to strip away the rights and freedoms that define America. Most recently, Bush signed a bizarre "Military Commissions Act" (MCA) that legalizes torture and allows the president or secretary of defense to throw any American citizen into prison without cause or charging him with a crime.
"The legislation signed by the president today violates basic principles and values of our constitutional system of government," said Democratic Senator Russ Feingold. "It allows the government to seize individuals on American soil and detain them indefinitely, with no opportunity to challenge their detention in court. We look back on this day as a stain on our nation's history."
Nice speech. But voters want Democrats to do more than talk next spring if they regain majority control. All of the Bush-era attacks on freedom and decency must go: the MCA, Detainee Treatment Act, Terrorist Surveillance Program Act legalizing spying on our phone calls and e-mail without a warrant, and the USA-Patriot Act. Concentration camps at Guantánamo, Bagram and Abu Ghraib, as well as the CIA's "secret prisons" in Eastern Europe and Central Asia and the vile program of "extraordinary renditions" (torture outsourcing) should be closed at once.
Impeach Bush. I was one of the few lefties to say it at the time: Bill Clinton deserved to be impeached. He lied under oath and he lied to the American people. George W. Bush makes Clinton look like a rank amateur. He stole two presidential elections, at least in part by hiring thugs to prevent black people from voting. He repeatedly told lies to deceive the public into fighting a disastrous, losing war. It's late and it's insufficient punishment, but if Bush doesn't merit impeachment, who does?
This year, casting your vote for a Democrat isn't enough to end the neo-fascist nightmare. The real work begins next spring, if and when Democrats assume control of Congress. It's up to us to hold them accountable--and vote them out if they let us down.