It all came out the way it was supposed to. America showed the world it could have an election shorn of front-page accusations of ballot fixing. Horrible senators like Allen and Burns lost narrow races. The Republicans got a pasting. A man who called Alan Greenspan “a political hack” and George Bush “a liar” will be Senate majority leader. A woman elected to Congress with the help of thousands of San Francisco homosexuals, some of them married by Mayor Gavin Newsom, will be Speaker. Who wouldn’t want Harry Reid instead of Bill Frist, or Nancy Pelosi instead of fatty Hastert?
It’s also the role of elections in properly run Western democracies to remind people that things won’t really change at all. You can set your watch by the speed with which the new crowd lowers expectations and announces What Is Not to Be Done. Nowhere is there an item on the Democrats’ “must do” list saying, “Reverse plunge toward fascism. Restore habeas corpus and the Bill of Rights.” Pelosi says impeachment is off the table.
“Bold new vision” these days means Pelosi pledging a drive to notch up the minimum wage. I don’t know about the vineyard, hotel and restaurant that Pelosi co-owns, but the effective minimum wage here in Humboldt County, Northern California, is about $10 an hour, which is what you have to pay a young person to mow the yard. The payout rises to $13 an hour if you want return visits. Maybe on some slave plantation in southern Florida attainment of the federal minimum wage is part of the American Dream, but elsewhere we have to talk about a living wage.
But who cares! No one believes the Democrats are ever going to mess with the system, and that’s not why the voters put them back in charge of Congress. They want America out of Iraq. Pronto, just like Representative Jack Murtha said it should be, this time last year. Pelosi knows that, which is why, to her great credit and the chagrin of the Washington Post as well as Fox News, she backed Murtha against prowar Steny Hoyer to be House majority leader and said that Jane Harman shouldn’t chair the House Intelligence Committee. But the lord giveth and the lord taketh away. Hardly was her Murtha endorsement out of Pelosi’s mouth before Harry Reid told his fellow Democrats in the Senate that the issue of what to do in Iraq shouldn’t be raised till James Baker and his Iraq Study Group issue their report.
Optimists somehow imagine the Baker Report will explode excitingly under the war’s partisans and blow them sky-high. It’ll do nothing of the sort. There will be paragraphs of soggy language about the promise of democratic governance and the rule of law in Iraq, raised fingers of warning about the perils of failure, acres of statesmanspeak about the need for multilateral involvement. Probably Baker & Co. think the United States should quit Iraq but can’t think of a way of accomplishing this without jump-starting charges over the next two years that America is cutting and running and is this any way to run an empire? McCain’s saying that already.