Mid-term election night in the U.S. caught the attention of the world. For the first time since 1994, it looked as if control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate would end up in the hands of the Democratic Party. Bad news for Republican President Bush; better news for those opposed to his policies, though the election of moderate and conservative Democratic candidates lowered expectations about a change in course on the issues that matter.

With the Democrats winning a majority in the House, Bush must face an opposition party in de facto control of the legislative process (control of the Senate awaits a recount in Virginia). Like other Presidents, his party lost ground in the election held six years after he was first elected. Similarly, other wartime presidents have seen their party lose ground in midterm elections.

The Republicans have controlled the White House and Congress, and thus judicial appointments. Bush now has to share power with the Democrats in the House. The new House speaker, second in line for the presidency, after the vice-president, will be Nancy Pelosi of California, the first woman to hold the key legislative position in the American system.

Since September 2001, Bush has used the so-called war on terrorism as the “wedge” to divide the electorate, and have the majority of Americans fall into the Republican camp.

In 2006 the wedge issue was Bush himself. Voters divided against the Republican president who has about 60 per cent of Americans disapproving of his performance in the White House.

His handling of the war against Iraq and the economy, drove voters away from Republican candidates. The terrorism issue no longer sent voters to the Republicans.

The Democrats now can use the House to establish their issues: helping Americans participate in the economy, reducing the cost of health care and post-secondary education, as well as setting a new direction in Iraq. For the moment Democrats are talking about working with the White House, looking to bi-partisan action. But taking the new direction they have promised requires Bush to stand down on Iraq, and on the economy. This is not going to happen,

The reality is that the Iraq war carries a price tag of $2 trillion, money better spent on social housing, education, health care. The Democrats once had the franchise to represent working people; since Bill Clinton, Wall St. has loomed large in party policy-making, and policies to promote jobs and incomes are less prominent.

The Christian right holds strong for Bush and the Republicans, and no potential Republican candidate for President, or any other office, can neglect this constituency.

In the 2008 election both parties will be looking for a new wedge. Running against Bush will not be enough for Democrats, and the war in Iraq overshadows the Republican rallying call of the war on terror.

The Democrats of the Class of 2006 are not likely to look much different on the issues of the day than the Republicans they replaced,A Democratic House of Representatives could help a Democratic President (should one be elected in two years) give the promised new direction to America. But the rest of the world cannot expect to see a new American perspective on world affairs, or economic policy as a result of the 2006 mid-term elections.

If the loser is George Bush, there is no clear winner.

Duncan Cameron

Duncan Cameron

Born in Victoria B.C. in 1944, Duncan now lives in Vancouver. Following graduation from the University of Alberta he joined the Department of Finance (Ottawa) in 1966 and was financial advisor to the...