A year ago, Democrats were confident to the point of cockiness with their election wins. They had control of the House and functional control of the Senate, and they were ready to make a difference. It was going to be a new day in American politics.
With their first year in the Congressional driver's seat almost over, things are not looking good for last year's victors. The Washington Post is reporting that Congressional Democrat leaders are pointing fingers at one another about who's to blame for the collapse of the Democrats' plans. The House is blaming the Senate, the Senate is blaming the House, and everyone's blaming the Republicans. A real change in leadership there.
The lack of progress in Congress is translating into declining approval ratings. Bush may not be lighting things up in the approval ratings, but when you consider Congress has dropped from around the mid-thirty percent range to barely sneaking over 20%, and close to 10% in some polls, it's clear the public may be regretting their Election 2006 decisions. Big talk with little action after the fact doesn't sit well with people. The Democrats promised change and honesty, and they delivered...pointless show investigations and naming post offices. Not a good way to leave a lasting positive impression on history.
After the 2006 elections, Democrats, their followers, and pundits all started talking about the country moving to the left. They've had a chance to pick up some seats here and there, but there were more than a few elections that should give the Democrats a reason to be concerned. One was the governorship of Louisiana. The public may not be that keen on Republicans, but Bobby Jindahl, a young Republican, won the gubernatorial election in what proved to be somewhat shocking to Democrats and their allies, given the electoral makeup in Louisiana. But it really wasn't as shocking as some might think. After the disasterous reign of Kathleen Blanco during Hurricane Katrina, the very way Democrats swept into control of Congress came back to bite them.
But one gubernatorial election does not a trend make, right? Not so fast. This past Tuesday, Republicans ran and won elections for open seats in Ohio and Virginia. Some have tried to write it off as a fait accompli due to the makeup of those respective districts, but if the country truly did distrust Republicans in positions of power, the Democrats should have taken those seats. The fact they didn't should be a matter of concern.
Then, there's the Democrats running for President right now. I'm going to torque off supporters of Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich, but there are only three main candidates for the Democrats: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards. Clinton is polarizing and has been looking more like Wile E. Coyote than a President. Obama has a good heart, but I don't see him convincing enough people that he's ready for the Oval Office. Edwards has been lagging behind Hillary and Obama and hasn't been able to put together a strong message to show how he'd be different from his two main rivals. The Republicans may not be much better in this regard, but remember it's the Democrats who have to take back the White House. All the Republicans have to do is retain it, which may be easier than people think.
With Code Pink targeting Hillary for her support of the Iraq War, Cindy Sheehan mounting a campaign against Nancy Pelosi, and the fringe left starting to make noise to get Democrats to dance to their tune, the Democrats are facing problems from their left flank. But to appease their left flank, they risk alienating their right flank, which helped them take control of Congress in 2006. This political schitzophrenia may be the very thing that keeps the Democrats out of the White House in 2008.
Put simply, the ground is being laid for Election 2008 right now. The Democrats are hoping to ride the Election 2006 results into further success, but the cards aren't there for it to happen right now unless the Democrats take some actions to address the multiple problems they face. Unless they do, they'll fiddle while their 2008 hopes burn.