This time it’s going to be different. Whenever a new crowd displaces an old guard, the promise is always the same. The fresh managers swear they understand what the tired bunch they’re replacing did wrong and vow to make all things new. The Democrats who take power in Congress on Thursday have been given an opportunity that has not come their party’s way for a half-century: They can remake their own image — and Congress’s — and they can begin to restore public confidence in government.
Democrats really DO have a golden opportunity in front of them. Beginning Thursday, the can begin to turn Congress into what it should be- a place where elected representatives take care of the People’s business. Since 1994, we’ve seen what can happen when a corrupt cabal of self-absorbed, self-righteous thugs (i.e.- Republicans) hijack government. Now Democrats have an opportunity to do things differently. Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi have talked the talk; what remains to be seen is if they and their Democratic majority can walk the walk.
Of course, history being what it is, no reasonable observer of American politics would hold their breath in anticipation of anything changing. Given what American politics has morphed into, it’s become crystal clear that corruption does not recognize or respect party affiliation. In fact, one of the reasons Republican swept into power in 1994 was because of Democratic corruption and sense of noblesse oblige.
One can understand, I suppose, why corruption and Congress seem to walk hand-in-glove. With money being the lifeblood of the institution, as well as the chief means for ensuring job security, the never-ending re-election campaign tends to take priority over anything else. It doesn’t have to be this way, but human nature being what it is, it may well continue unabated…unless Democrats can convince those they represent that they really will conduct themselves with honesty and transparency.
This may well be the last legitimate chance to prove to the American people that they really can govern effecively, openly, and with integrity. DON’T BLOW IT, DAMNIT!!
If Democrats don’t seize this rare opportunity, their party will pay for a long time. Not only will they disillusion their own supporters, but, more important, the angry centrists of the Ross Perot stripe who voted the Republicans out last year will either go back to the GOP or seek other options.
The first opportunity in the House will come on the very first day, when a package of reforms comes up for a vote. The Senate will take its own steps soon after. At stake initially are new ethics and lobbying rules. Over time House and Senate leaders will have to prove their commitment to bringing more democracy to the way Congress is run. A country that claims a mission to democracy and transparent government in the rest of the world needs to get its own institutions in order.
We will be able to gauge the Democrats’ commitment to doing things differently right away. If they can follow through on their promises, if they can prove that they will be conducting the People’s business differently than their corrupt and self-righteous predecessor, they may just have a chance. If they cannot…well, welcome to business as usual.