Thankfully the election is over. The Republicans got voted out by an electorate mad at their spending and corruption. Ironically, Republicans lost for acting like Democrats.
It was not so much that the Democrats won as the Republicans lost. A Democrat friend explained it to me this way: "We feel like we were in a room and our parents were so mad at our older brother that they were screaming at him. So we just walked out of the room." In short, I am not sure there were any winners in this election -- certainly not the taxpayers. And now, since they won, we might actually get to see the Democrats' much ballyhooed plan for victory in Iraq.
Donald Rumsfeld stepped down as secretary of defense after the election, fading into history with the legacy that he has, not the legacy he wanted. George Bush, flexing his remaining strength as president, immediately nominated his dad's ex-CIA director, Robert Gates, easily beating out Nancy Pelosi's choice of Cindy Sheehan.
Democrats said that Bush is a disengaged president. Say what you will about Bill Clinton, he was on top of everything in the Oval Office. Smelling victory and a chance to get out of the house, he even made some calls to people's homes asking them for votes. I know it was Bill Clinton because when a husband picked up the phone, Clinton would instinctively hang up.
The new Democratic majority hopefully will fulfill campaign promises. The Republicans found that you can lead a man to Congress, but you can't make him think. I hope the Democrats do a better job with their win by enacting just two items:
1) Eliminate budget earmarks. These are those clandestine spending add-ons that provide pork in congressmen's home districts. There were 16,500 earmarks in spending bills in 2005, costing the taxpayers $50 billion. The real cost, according to Republican senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, is "probably 10 times higher." Pork is Congress' barter system. In fact, congressmen no longer pay hookers in cash; they just get a bridge funded for them.
2) Lobbyist and campaign-finance reform. Spending by lobbyists in D.C. has tripled in the last eight years. The McCain-Feingold campaign-finance reform ban on "soft money" was a joke. It just moved money from political parties to the sleazy and less accountable underworld of "nonprofits." If congressmen were smart, they would deregulate campaign-finance reform and allow unlimited donations to parties as long as it is disclosed quickly. That way, at least, we know who is buying our politicians.
Pelosi could muster some immediate credibility by actually proposing clear-cut bills addressing the aforementioned issues. But she will probably come up with some confusing law, perhaps combining gun control with ethics -- like a one-week waiting period before you buy a congressman.
The Democrats have chosen New Orleans for their 2008 convention, trying to embarrass the Republicans over the president's pathetic Katrina response. Pelosi was recently in downtown New Orleans where a commercial for the Democrats was shot -- along with three cameramen. The race card is already being shuffled for the 2008 elections. Democrat Charles Rangel insulted Mississippi, and the Republicans are so indifferent to race that they reelected Mississippi senator Trent Lott to the position of "minority whip." Oops.
For the Republicans, the uneasy alliance of the religious right and libertarians has begun to unravel. The intrusive social agenda of the theocrats sent us minimal-government libertarians packing. But we are packed with no place to go. Our Republican Party, hijacked by the big-government neo-cons, is no longer familiar to us. The only thing we agreed on -- tax cuts -- stands as the lone accomplishment of this administration.
Now, with the stock market at record highs, interest rates at near-record lows, unemployment the lowest in decades, the economy sound and growing, Pelosi and the Democrats want to take us in a "new direction." I guess it is no longer "the economy, stupid"?
Ron Hart is a columnist and investor in Atlanta. He worked for Goldman Sachs and was appointed to the Tennessee Board of Regents by Lamar Alexander. His e-mail is RevRon10@aol.com.