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The People Speak on Raising the Minimum Wage

It now looks as if voters approved all six of the state-level minimum-wage initiatives. In addition to Missouri and Ohio--which you read about on the Notion last night--the measures also passed in Arizona, Colorado, Montana and Nevada. That amounts to a rejection en masse of right-wing economic ideology; when asked, Americans obviously think hard-working poor folks deserve better. Most also required adjustments for inflation or changes in the cost of living. The overwhelming margins in most of the races were also exciting: more than two-thirds of voters approved the initiatives in Montana, Nevada, Missouri and Arizona.

These increases, small as they sound, will have a far more direct effect on the daily lives of Americans than many of the other matters so hotly debated and horse-raced in election season. That alone is reason for celebration. But the other question, of course, is, Did they have a broader impact on the elections? Was minimum wage the gay marriage of the left? That is, did these initiatives help turn out the Democratic base and help the Democrats win? We'd need more analysis of the data to say for certain, but it looks like they may have helped. Democrats took Senate seats in Ohio, Missouri and most likely Montana.

The Netroots Election? Not So Fast

Howard Dean, Nancy Pelosi and Rahm Emanuel say they are happy to sharecredit for the Democrats' electoral success, but not everyone in theparty is feeling as generous. Progressive bloggers, who often promoteand criticize the Democratic Party with equal vigor, want their props. MyDD blogger Chris Bowers concluded that netroots activists werecrucial to victory--long before the votes were counted. Last month, hewrote that"most, if not all, of the significant improvements Democrats have madefrom 2004 to 2006 were generated primarily within the netroots and theprogressive movement." Yet the election results suggest the netroots'scorecard is decidedly mixed.

The blogs' most famous candidate and top fundraising beneficiary, NedLamont, lost his bid to unseat Senator Joe Lieberman. One of thecampaign's senior advisors, former Clinton White House counsel LannyDavis, said the victory "proved the blogosphere is all wind and verylittle sail." Bloggers tell a different story: the unusual, three-way raceshould not be judged strictly by who won but also by its success inhelping "make Iraq the center of this electoral season," as JoelSilberman wrote on FireDogLake. If Lamont's loss is counted as a symbolic effort thatbeat expectations, his performance fits a pattern. Many of thenetroots' most popular House candidates beat expectations this week,but ultimately lost.

While there is no single, authoritative list of netroots candidates, ActBlue.com, a Democraticfundraising clearinghouse, lists the candidates nominated by top blogsand ranks them by total donors. Looking at their top 20 DemocraticHouse candidates, so far ten have lost, three have won and the otherseven are in races that are still too close too call at the time ofwriting. The netroots' lost races include national names, such as FBIwhistleblower Coleen Rowley in Minnesota and New York's Eric Massa, thepopular former aide to Gen. Wesley Clark. Winners include attorneyPaul Hodes in New Hampshire and two veterans, Joe Sestak inPennsylvania and Tim Walz in Minnesota. (Bloggers also providedcritical early support to long-shot Senate challengers Jon Tester andJim Webb, who were locked in races that were also still too close tocall on Wednesday morning.)

Yet regardless of the remaining results and recounts, the fact is thenetroots' favorite candidates did not perform as well as the Democratstargeted by party leaders. And they were never supposed to. Many ofthe bloggers' picks were aggressive Democrats in long-shot districtswho were neglected by the Beltway establishment. There is no doubtthat bloggers leveraged money and political buzz to make races morecompetitive and put Republicans on the defensive, but it was simply notthe decisive factor in the elections

John Aravosis writes AmericaBlog, which raised over $100,000 from about1,900 activists this cycle, but on election night he resisted attemptsto measure the netroots' impact. "It's too hard to define who didwhat. We could have defined quite easily that John Kerry lost it forus if he had not shut up after two days, but to know whether blogs [hada bigger effect than] unions is like saying was Rahm Emanuel moreeffective than Howard Dean? I don't know," he told The Nation. That sentiment is probably shared by many netroots activists, who aremore focused on the Democratic victory than parceling out credit.

The more interesting question, Aravosis argues, is how will the blogsadapt to working with "Democrats who actually have power." In theshort term, he hopes to hammer home the message that the electionproves Americans think conservatism is "inherently wrong," rallysupport for voting rights reform, and support the House Democrats' newagenda. Other bloggers are more interested in crafting the agenda:Arianna Huffington's top blog on election night chastised HowardDean for backtracking so far on Iraq in a CNN interview that he soundedlike he was pitching "the president's plan."

Mr. Davis, a self-described "liberal Democrat" who repeatedly tangledwith bloggers during his work on behalf of Joe Lieberman, said onelection night that the blogosphere must evolve in order to have abroader impact. "If the blogosphere is to have an impact on changingthe country as opposed to talking to each other, the Lamont campaign isa lesson in exactly what not to do. They came out of a primary and theycontinued to wage a primary," he said, "but they weren't talking tounaffiliated voters and moderate Republicans." Davis told TheNation he has a new proposal that the blogosphere establishvoluntary rules for "fairness, accuracy and accountability," requiringwriters and commentors to provide their real names, phone numbers andaddresses, and forbidding anonymous comments offering misleading orpersonal attacks. He argues that Democrats cannot change the minds ofpeople voting against their "economic self-interest" by offering "wordsof hate" or "anonymous attacks."

Benjamin Rahn, President of ActBlue.com, believes online activists havealready cleared that hurdle, because they are part of the offlinepolitical dialogue across the country. "In many ways the netroots arejust the most visible part of the nationwide grassroots movement. Theconversations happening online, in the blogosphere, and by e-mail fromfriend to friend to friend, are also happening in bars and coffee shopsand PTA meetings. We just don't happen to mike them and put the audioonline for everyone to hear," he explained via e-mail. "And the peoplewho used ActBlue to fundraise are also the people who made phone callswith MoveOn's call to change, and waved signs at street corners today,and helped out at polling places. And those are the people who aregoing to wake up tomorrow and say "Damn, that felt good. Let's do itagain."

The Unstoppable Harold Ford

It was tough for any self-respecting progressive to root wholeheartedlyfor Harold Ford Jr. In his longshot bid to replace retiring SenateMajority Stiff Bill Frist, Tennesee's wunderkind Democratic congressmantook the tired old "Republican Lite" strategy and amped it up intosomething more akin to "Republican Squared." War? Absolutely.Immigration? Inexcusable. Guns? Blast away! Gays? Keep yourdistance--from each other. Jesus? To Him be all glory.

My introduction to Ford's unorthodox campaign strategy came last summer,when I landed in Nashville International Airport, climbed into my rentalDodge, clicked on the radio, and heard this blast: "Every day over 5,700miles of border stands unsecured.... Every day almost 2,000 people enterAmerica illegally. Every day hundreds of employers look the other way,handing out jobs that keep illegals coming.... And every day the rest ofus pay the price.... I'm Congressman Harold Ford, Jr. For too manyyears Democrat and Republican presidents alike have looked the otherway. Now 11 million people live here illegally...and while most comefor jobs, the odds are any terrorist with a map can also get inundetected."

Ford couldn't talk enough about "illegals." Or quote enough from theHoly Bible. Or adjust his accent often enough as he raced across thestate, seemingly trying to personally wrestle every voter's doubt intosubmission. Like Bill Clinton, you hate to like Ford--but you can't helpit. With his twinkish good looks and winningly oily charm, he easilyout-campaigned and out-charmed his opponent, the supremely bland,moderately conservative Bob Corker.

In the end, Ford also out-Republicaned the Republican nominee. It wasquite a feat for a Democrat to do that, you had to admit. But you alsohad to wonder: What kind of victory would it be for Democrats to electsomeone who's staked himself out in opposition to practically every coreprinciple of the party?

But there was another principle at stake in this race--thanks not somuch to Ford's being black, but to the very worst instincts of theRepublican Party. Everybody knows about the blatant race-baiting of theinfamous "Harold, call me" Playboy ad. What's received less attention isthe way Corker and the national GOP steadily led up to their dropping ofthat "final solution." All campaign long, in ads and on their website FancyFord.com, they whispered into Tennesseans' ears that Ford embodied all theworst stereotypes of that creature called Black Democrat: shifty, horny(for sleazy white women especially), posturing and profiteering. ThePlayboy ad turned the race from a likely Ford win to a narrow Corkerelection--but not simply because of its own malignant impact. The skidshad long been greased. A certain set of white Tennessee men was ready totake the message to heart once it came hurtling at them so explicitly.

It's easy to see Ford's loss as a sign that the old racial mistrust --the old prejudices--remain shockingly strong in 2006 Tennessee. There'sno question that Ford was a far superior candidate, or that he hadtailored himself to snugly fit the conservative leanings of many of thestate's available independent and Republican voters. There's no questionthat race-baiting sunk him. But there is also this: In a supposedlysolid-red Southern state, an African-American Democrat from awell-known, ethically challenged (and liberal) political family nearlybeat a conservative Republican for a US Senate seat. A whole lot ofTennesseans voted for their first black person for a major office; awhole lot of others considered it for the first time. It will never benearly so hard for them to pull that trigger again. And Ford, given hisgleefully vaulting ambitions, will sure enough give them another chance.

A New Morality

Citizens in Arizona, Missouri, Montana, and Ohio resoundingly passed minimum wage initiatives today. And in Colorado, voters are evenly split on the issue in early returns at the time of this post.

It is clear – as I suggested in a recent post – that the economy has emerged along with the war in Iraq as the defining moral issues of our time. And while the GOP has tried to sell voters on a bill of goods that the economy is strong and people are prospering, people know better. In the same way that it has ignored the facts on the ground in Iraq, the Administration and its Republican enablers have ignored the economic struggles of middle and working class Americans.

Today -- in states labeled moderate to conservative -- the people have spoken clearly: when it comes to the economy, they're looking for a model that better serves the real and common good.

The Senate! UPDATED

With an early morning win in the tightly-contested state of Missouri and results that seemed to show Montana and Virginia tipping toward them, Democrats ended one of the most intense election nights in recent American history with control of the Senate in their grasp.

Around 2 a.m., Democrat Claire McCaskill won Missouri for the Democrats.

As the night wore on, Democrat Jon Tester maintained a narrow but consistent lead over Republican incumbent Conrad Burns in the distant state of Montana. And in Virginia, Democratic challenger Jim Webb opened up a steadily wider lead in his campaign to oust Republican Senator George Allen.

If the Tester and Webb leads hold, which seems possible, it's a 51-49 Democratic Senate.

Here's how Democrats did it:

Every Democratic incumbent and Democrat seeking a seat currently held by the party was elected. That gave the party 45 seats.

Republican incumbents lost in the aforementioned Missouri, as well as in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. That gave them a 5O-5O split.

So it comes down to Montana and Virginia. Burns and Allen wins would have created a tied Senate, where Vice President Dick Cheney would tip the balance.

But Tester and Webb wins will put Cheney on the sidelines.

And it looks like that is where the vice president will be standing.

Early in the morning, Tester was up by around 1,5OO votes -- a small but credible margin in Montana, where the total vote in the Senate contest was around 4OO,OOO

Webb's led by around 8,OOO votes out of about 2.3 million cast in Virginia.

If the Tester and Webb leads holds and then withstand possible recounts, it's a Democratic Senate.

There will, of course, be speculation about what Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman will do.

The Democratic nominee for vice president in 2OOO lost his party's August primary to anti-war businessman Ned Lamont. On Tuesday, however, running as an independent, Lieberman beat Lamont.

Throughout the campaign, Lieberman pledged to caucus with the Senate Democrats. At the end, the senator teased that, "I would like to see this election today as a declaration of independence from the politics of partisanship."

That may have caught the ear of White House political czar Karl Rove, who was surely pondering the question of whether he might yet come up with an offer that Lieberman couldn't refuse.

But Lieberman quietly received assurances in October, as he opened a poll lead over Lamont, that Democratic leaders in the Senate would welcome him into their caucus and maintain his seniority. "Caucuses like to keep as many members as they can, not discourage membership," noted Lieberman.

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, is fully aware that he needs Lieberman. Lieberman is fully aware that his commitment to caucus with the Democrats contributed to his reelection win on Tuesday.

Bottom line: It looks as if the voters have decided to give the Democrats control of both houses of Congress.

Real Democrats

Just one year ago--hell, even a few months ago--the unanimous viewamong the Democrats' strategic sages was that the only drama in theSouth this fall would be whether the region's few remaining statewideDemocratic office-holders could hold on to their jobs. Could SenatorBill Nelson hold off Katherine Harris, America's tackiest theocrat, inFlorida? Could Gov. Phil Bredesen show his conservative cojones bycutting enough folks off state health care to hold on in ultra-redTennessee?

After the 2004 wipeout of five Democratic Senate seats in the South,many national Democrats were pleased to think that their long-runningdebate--can we win in the Dixie, and should we even try?--had beensettled. Settled in the negative, that is. Thomas Schaller's recentbook, Whistling Past Dixie, brought together years' worth ofpoll-tested memoranda in calling for the Democratic Party to kiss offthe nation's largest region. It was just a more polite version of one ofthe most popular post-election blogs from the bitterness of late 2004:"Fuck the South."

Tonight, the South--aka "Jesusland"--has a message for thosenational Democratic wizards: No, fuck you. If the Senate lands inDemocratic hands, it'll be thanks to Claire McCaskill's triumph inMissouri and Jim Webb's stunning win in Virginia over the man who wasonce conservative Republicans' great hope for the White House in 2008.It will not be thanks to the candidate who ran the sort of Southerncampaign the sages called "perfect"--Harold Ford Jr. in Tennessee,who went far beyond triangulation and out-Republicaned his opponentwith hard lines on gay marriage, immigration, national defense, guns,and an array of Bible quotes that could whip John Ashcroft in aholiness contest any day.

McCaskill, a hard-nosed former prosecutor, and Webb, atough-as-beef-jerky former Republican cabinet officer, are nobody'sidea of wild-eyed liberals. But they both ran campaigns that stubbornlybucked conventional wisdom for Southern Democrats running statewide inthe last two decades. Running against hardcore Christian conservativeincumbents, neither of them triangulated. They were unwaveringlypro-choice; they called for sharp changes in Iraq policy; McCaskill opposedanti-gay marriage hoo-ha; and they ran as old-fashioned, blue-collar,labor-embracing economic populists. As what used to be calledDemocrats, that is.

"It's back to the traditional Democratic Party, which was founded onthe health of the working person," Webb told me earlier this fall. Inher victory speech this morning, McCaskill highlighted the same theme:"Once again," she said, "the Democratic Party has claimed HarryTruman's Senate seat for the working people of Missouri."

For the working people. It's a sequence of words Democrats havecontinued to mouth, but it's been a long time since anybody living inanything smaller than a McMansion had much call to believe it.

Truly championing the working class--and winning these folks' votes--means plunging in among them. That is what national Democrats areafraid to do. It's what John Kerry had in mind early in 2004, when hesniffed about how "everybody always makes the mistake of looking South" forDemocratic votes. Despite forty years of steady economic growth in theregion, the South still has more poor, struggling and badly educatedAmericans--black and white--than anywhere else in the country.

Those were the people who won Missouri and Virginia for the Democratsthis year. Not because they finally woke up and realized where theirtrue economic interests lay. McCaskill and Webb won because they tooktheir campaigns directly into the Republicans' working-classstrongholds. In the Bible Belt Ozarks of Southern Missouri, McCaskillcampaigned hard, emphasizing her blue-collar message without runningaway from her pro-stem cell, pro-choice, anti-war message. It paid offin the biggest Republican county in the state, Greene, where earlypolls showed Republican Jim Talent winning a mere 53 percent of thevote--a huge change from recent elections.

Webb stumped hard in Southwest Virginia, conservative hill country thathas provided Republicans with their statewide margins in Virginia forthree decades now. He did not thicken his accent to charm the folksdown there; he did not excise the Marx and Engels references from hishigh-falutin speeches when he campaigned in the deepest, mostconservative hollows. Like McCaskill, he spoke to folks in the sametone, with the same messages, that he used in liberal urbanstrongholds. It won't be so easy for Dixiephobic Democrats to make a"forget the South" argument now. As a recent Pew study found, theSouth's famously militaristic folks have turned against the Iraq warjust as fiercely as the rest of the country. In Virginia, folks werenot distracted by an anti-gay marriage amendment. In Missouri, folkswere not distracted by this year's hot initiative issue, a stem-cellamendment. For years, they've been voting for Republicans with whomthey disagreed on a host of issues; this time, they voted for Democratswith social and foreign-policy views that were often downright liberal.

The war mattered, but the working-class message made the difference forboth McCaskill and Webb. It wasn't just their policy positions, whichmimicked those of national Democrats in most ways. It was the way theyshowed up -- over and over again -- in places where Democrats(according to the sages) are supposed to avoid. On Election Day,McCaskill veered from her planned schedule and made the long tripdownstate to shake hands at a polling place in Greene County. LikeWebb, she looked rural and Christian Right folks in the eye, asked fortheir votes, and told them where she stood without trimming the edgesoff her progressive views. And like Webb, she got more votes from thosefolks than any chart, graph, poll or wishful thought could haveconjured up.

No message from this triumphal mid-term election should ring moreloudly than this. The South cannot be written off by the DemocraticParty. More precisely, Southerners cannot be written off by theDemocratic Party. The key to winning the votes of rural andworking-class people in Dixie is the same as everywhere else inAmerica. Nobody said it better than that great old Southern liberalactivist, Strange Fruit author Lillian Smith. "A vote," she wrote inKillers of the Dream, "...is a small thing to give a man who hasmade you feel revered for the first time in your life."

The Iraq War Election

What is a one-word description for an anti-war Democrat? "Winner."

Despite all the attempts to spin Tuesday's election results as something else, the single most important message to take away from the voting is this: The American people cast their ballots against the Bush administration's approach to the war in Iraq Tuesday.

Pro-war Republican majorities in the House and Senate were upset.

And the standout successes were those of Democrats who ran on explicitly anti-war platforms. It wasn't just apparent winner Jim Webb, the former Republican who switched parties because of his anger over the war and ran against pro-war Virginia Republican Senator George Allen. It wasn't just Sherrod Brown, a leading House critic of the war, who beat Ohio Republican Senator Mike DeWine. It wasn't just Jon Tester, the Montana Democrat who won his primary after taking a strong anti-war position and went on to distinguish himself in the fall campaign by opposing the occupation that Republican incumbent Conrad Burns supported.

The most dramatic anti-war wins came in races that most media was not even following. Consider the contest in the 1st district of New Hampshire. Democrat Carol Shea-Porter had little name recognition, little money, few high-profile endorsements and almost no support from the national party for her campaign.

What Shea-Porter had was her anti-war stance, and grassroots volunteers who were attracted by the opportunity to support someone who pulled no punches when it came to challenging the Bush administration. In 2005, when President Bush came to the New Hampshire city of Portsmouth, Shea-Porter showed up wearing a T-shirt that read "Turn your back on Bush." She was removed from the event.

Her response was to run for Congress against popular Republican incumbent Jeb Bradley. And her issue was the war. "The United States must physically leave, abandon our 'lone wolf' approach, and work with other nations to stabilize Iraq," she said.

Shea-Porter didn't stop there. "Americans have spent billions on this unnecessary war only to see tragedy, fraud, and waste," the Democrat argued. "We must determine what went wrong to lead us into the war and provide taxpayers with a strict accounting of the spending. We must prosecute any companies who stole from us and we should then continue this fiscal oversight of our money as we finance the repairs of the war damage in Iraq."

Many national Democrats quietly argued that Shea-Porter and other explicitly anti-war candidates -- such as Zack Space, who won a Republican seat in Ohio, and John Yarmuth, who upset Republican Congresswoman Anne Northrup in Kentucky -- were too aggressive in their criticism of the president's military misadventure.

On Tuesday, however, the anti-war message won.

In New Hampshire, Shea-Porter prevailed over Bradley by a 52-48 margin. It was a close win, to be sure. But it was a win that few if any Democratic strategists or political pundits anticipated. And it was a win that could be attributed to one factor: the willingness of Carol Shea-Porter to run hard and strong against a bad war and the president who started it.

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John Nichols' new book, THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT: The Founders' Cure for Royalism is being published this month by The New Press. "With The Genius of Impeachment," writes David Swanson, co-founder of the AfterDowningStreet.org coalition, "John Nichols has produced a masterpiece that should be required reading in every high school and college in the United States." Studs Terkel says: "Never within my nonagenarian memory has the case for impeachment of Bush and his equally crooked confederates been so clearly and fervently offered as John Nichols has done in this book. They are after all our public SERVANTS who have rifled our savings, bled our young, and challenged our sanity. As Tom Paine said 200 years ago to another George, a royal tramp: 'Bugger off!' So should we say today. John Nichols has given us the history, the language and the arguments we will need to do so." The Genius of Impeachment can be found at independent bookstores and at www.amazon.com

So Close

With early morning wins in the tightly-contested states of Missouri and Montana, and with Virginia tipping toward them, Democrats ended one of the most intense election nights in recent American history with control of the Senate in their grasp.

It was almost 3 a.m. in Washington when Democrat Jon Tester was declared the winner over Republican incumbent Conrad Burns in the distant state of Montana. That victory came about an hour after Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill won Missouri for the Democrats.

And as the night wore on in the last state of Virginia, Democratic challenger Jim Webb opened up a steadily wider lead in his campaign to oust Republican Senator George Allen.

If the Webb lead holds, it's a 51-49 Democratic Senate.

Here's how Democrats did it:

Every Democratic incumbent and Democrat seeking a seat currently held by the party was elected. That gave the party 45 seats.

Republican incumbents lost in the aforementioned Missouri and Montana, as well as in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. That gave them a 5O-5O split.

So it came down to Virginia. An Allen win would have created a tied Senate, where Vice President Dick Cheney would tip the balance.

But a Webb win would put Cheney on the sidelines.

And it looks like that is where the vice president will be standing.

Late into the night, Webb's lead was tiny -- only about 3,000 votes

But as the evening wore on, Webb's margin slowly expanded.

By the time that Missouri and Montana were declared, Webb had opened up a 7,5OO lead. That's no landslide, but it's a bigger margin than can usually be upset by a recount.

If Webb's lead holds, it's a Democratic Senate.

There will, of course, be speculation about what Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman will do.

The Democratic nominee for vice president in 2OOO lost his party's August primary to anti-war businessman Ned Lamont. On Tuesday, however, running as an independent, Lieberman beat Lamont.

Throughout the campaign, Lieberman pledged to caucus with the Senate Democrats. At the end, the senator teased that, "I would like to see this election today as a declaration of independence from the politics of partisanship."

That may have caught the ear of White House political czar Karl Rove, who was surely pondering the question of whether he might yet come up with an offer that Lieberman couldn't refuse.

But Lieberman quietly received assurances in October, as he opened a poll lead over Lamont, that Democratic leaders in the Senate would welcome him into their caucus and maintain his seniority. "Caucuses like to keep as many members as they can, not discourage membership," noted Lieberman.

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, is fully aware that he needs Lieberman. Lieberman is fully aware that his commitment to caucus with the Democrats contributed to his reelection win on Tuesday.

Bottom line: It looks as if the voters have decided to give the Democrats control of both houses of Congress.

Payback Time

Payback's a bitch.

There is no way to spin the election results. They were a repudiation of George W. Bush, his party, his agenda, and his war. The commander-in-chief argues that he is fighting a war in Iraq that is essential to the survival of the United States. The electorate sent a message: we don't buy it. Political genius Karl Rove and GOP chieftain Ken Mehlman, with their scare tactics (defeatist Democrats will surrender to the terrorists; Nancy Pelosi will destroy the nation) and below-the-belt ads, were not able to defy popular sentiment. Comeuppance was the order of the day. Because of Bush, R became a scarlet letter. In Rhode Island, incumbent Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee, a moderate who voted against the war in 2002 and against Bush in 2004, enjoyed a 66 percent approval rating; still, voters sent him packing. Children, pay attention. If you're a president who misleads the nation into war and then mismanages that war, you might sneak past a reelection but then bring ruin upon your party. The Bush-wreaked reality trumped the Rove-designed rhetoric--finally. The voters chose not to stay his course. The market worked.

The Democrats won control of the House and came close with the Senate. As of 1 am, in Virginia, Reaganite-turned-Democrat Jim Webb was barely ahead of Senator George "Macaca" Allen--though a recount seemed likely. In Missouri, the Senate race was a virtual tie. If the Democrats should win in each, the Senate would be theirs. However, Tennessee--where Democrats were trying to elect Representative Harold Ford Jr., an African-American--was a bridge too far. [See update below.] But even without the Senate, the Democrats will now be able to counter Bush and advance a platform of their own.

At a victory party at a Capitol Hill hotel--attended by thousands of Democrats, many wearing a badge proclaiming, "A New Direction for America"--a senior House Democratic staffer said, "The word has come on down from on high: no gloating. Those of us who were around in 1994 remember Republicans telling us that we were no longer needed and could get lost--literally. We've been told to handle this differently." But it's certainly true that the House Democrats have assumed power in a slightly less triumphant manner than did the GOP in the so-called Republican Revolution of 1994. Though Democrats did have an agenda for the campaign, they know that the election was a referendum on Bush and the rubber-stamp Republicans, not their pet legislative ideas. As Senator Chuck Schumer, the head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee proclaimed, "the message of this election came down to one word: change." That is, boot Bush's compatriots out of office. To do this, voters had to go Democratic.

The voters have "reluctantly given us the keys," said Terry McAuliffe, a former head of the Democratic Party. And, he added, the Democrats will have to prove themselves--quickly. How to do so? By briskly passing legislation on popular issues--boosting the minimum wage, increasing homeland security funding, lowering interest rates on college loans, empowering the federal government to negotiate with pharmaceutical comapnies to achieve lower drug prices for Medicare. Even if such legislation dies in a Republican-controlled Senate or is vetoed by Bush, the Democrats can shape the the coming presidential election. (Another major win in a night of wins for the Democrats was the election of Representative Ted Strickland as governor of Ohio. "You can't win the presidency without Ohio," McAuliffe noted. And with a Democrat running the state, the Ds will have an advantage there in 2008.)

As for the Republicans, this election will unleash the furies within that party. In sorting out this defeat, GOPers will find themselves confronting their internal conflicts. Social conservatives will square off against economics-first libertarians. The party could split along other line--between those who stick with Bush and those who want to cut and run from the albatross-in-chief. It could all get quite acrimonious, especially with 2008 politics influencing the blame-game. Republicans could end up looking like Democrats.

But the bottom line is clear: the Bush presidency is over. At least, as Bush and Dick Cheney have envisioned it. They can no longer act imperiously. They have lost the public. And there is now an opposition that can check and investigate their actions abroad and at home. But the Democrats still have to complete the sale. At the victory bash, Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi declared, "We need a new direction in Iraq." She didn't say what it would be. The Democratic victory--as sweet as it is for the Democrats--is very much an unfinished work.

UPDATE: As of 2:00 AM, Democrat Claire McCaskill had been projected the winner in the Missouri Senate race, and Jim Webb was leading George Allen in Virginia, by 12,000 votes, with 99 percent of the precincts reporting. Webb was also ahead in all of the counties not fully reported. It looked as if the Democrats would finish election night ahead in enough races to take control of the Senate. But in Virginia, there will probably be a recount--and perhaps a major legal battle.

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DON"T FORGET ABOUT HUBRIS: THE INSIDE STORY OF SPIN, SCANDAL, AND THE SELLING OF THE IRAQ WAR, the best-selling book by David Corn and Michael Isikoff. Click here for information on the book. The New York Times calls Hubris "the most comprehensive account of the White House's political machinations" and "fascinating reading." The Washington Post says, "There have been many books about the Iraq war....This one, however, pulls together with unusually shocking clarity the multiple failures of process and statecraft." Tom Brokaw notes Hubris "is a bold and provocative book that will quickly become an explosive part of the national debate on how we got involved in Iraq." Hendrik Hertzberg, senior editor of The New Yorker notes, "The selling of Bush's Iraq debacle is one of the most important--and appalling--stories of the last half-century, and Michael Isikoff and David Corn have reported the hell out of it." For highlights from Hubris, click here.