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A Democrat's Dream Come True
Jim Rurak, Former Haverhill Mayor

By all accounts, it was a democrat dream come true.

The election results posted sweeping gains for dems in all categories: at least six more governor’s chairs (total now 28 of 50); at least 4 more U.S. Senate seats (total now 49/100, and dem’s lead in both Montana and Virginia—victories there will transfer control of the senate); at least 25 more House seats (total now 227/440).

Exit polls showed less than 40% approval for the president’s job performance and nearly 60% disapproval for his conduct of the war in Iraq. In spite of the vice-president’s insistence that no matter what, it’s full speed ahead in Iraq, we’re in for major changes. Some will be superficial, others more substantial.

First, on foreign policy, even though the president still has the power to conduct the war as he sees fit, there will be some major changes. Republicans, right now, are telling him that if he doesn’t do something soon, they will lose even more clout in 2008, and perhaps even the presidency. But, notwithstanding the tragically high soldier casualty count lately, Iraq may be stabilizing.

The best evidence is that violence was minimal after Saddam’s conviction, and, the government seems poised to share power with some previously dissident groups. So what will happen? Rumsfeld will resign.  (Editors note: Rumsfeld surprisingly resigned the day after Mr. Rurak Submitted is column.)That’s a surface change. But the substantial difference will be greater. The new Defense Secretary will argue for one last push to do the job “right.”

More troops will be sent. The democrats, even though they could cut off funds, will go along on the grounds that we need to protect our troops so that we can pull them out safely that much sooner. They’ll give Bush a chance on the grounds that they might share the credit for success, and, they don’t want to be the cause of deepening our failures.

Domestically, democrats will be on the hot-seat. Even if they do not control the senate (and I think they will) they will have to accomplish several things without endangering the economy. The first item is raising minimum wage. In all fairness this needs to be done. But republicans argue that this will increase unemployment because businesses will have to reduce employees to maintain the profit they need to stay afloat.

 The democrats need both to raise the wage and to propose programs to expand the economy. The interesting fight will come over whether the tax cuts which are due to expire will be re-authorized. Here’s a chance for both parties to move more to the center, and, they will. The tax cuts for the very wealthy will go; those for the middle-class will stay; the public will get the chance to decide who to thank in 2008. Then, there will be health-care.

Clearly, costs are out of control and too many people are without decent coverage or any coverage at all. Ironically, the one successful innovation in the past four years came from a republican, Mitt Romney, albeit with much democratic input. We’ll have to see what shape the national discussion takes.

If it moves in the direction of Romney’s plan, it won’t necessarily help Romney’s presidential prospects, but it will mark a move of both parties toward the center. And, it’s this move toward the center which both parties will promote. Watch for Bush to grab for the lead on this.

Locally, Massachusetts is completely controlled by democrats for the first time since 1990. The last days of complete democrat control are not happy memories, even for democrats.

So, Deval Patrick will have to prove he is as different as he said he is. He will follow through on community policing grants and on using state income tax money to increase aid to cities and towns. He said this will reduce property taxes. In most places, it won’t because those cities most in need of relief are already taxing to their limit under proposition two and one half.

So, expect increased local aid to translate into visible public works projects, or specific proposals to boost school test scores, rather than adding a lot of new public employees. Lastly, I do hope that the type of civic engagement which marked the core of Patrick’s campaign translates into a whole new host of people vigorously interested in political discussion at the local level. That would be the major achievement of Patrick’s victory.



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The November, 2006 Edition of the Valley Patriot
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