With the race all but over, ambitious Democrats are already girding themselves for what most observers agree could well be the first era of lasting Democratic rule since the fall of Lyndon Johnson. The question of what Democrats would actually do if they got power remains an open one. Certainly they couldn’t get away with a Clintonish “centrism.” Nor could they knife their progressive president in the back; Obama is no Carter, and he’s not at odds with party leaders. Nor are the American people in the mood to be roused to international do-gooderism in the mode of Kennedy. Yet Obama will probably be a popular president, and the Democrats are almost certainly going to seize a majority.
This in an era when the people are more furious with corrupt business and corrupt government — closer to seeing the essential link between them, the fact that one cannot really exist without the other — than at any time since the brief public outcry that accompanied the Enron scandal (and which Bush permanently derailed by dragging the country into Iraq). Are the Democrats going to transform themselves into the reformist party of our dreams and make us forget about the last two years?
I suppose it’s always possible, but if we’re not vigilant, who knows what we might end up with. This Politico story hints at what might be in store for us:
Come next year, the new administration and the new Congress may be able to build an entire new bureaucracy to govern the economy for decades. Essentially, Democrats want to put some institutional permanence behind the sweeping executive actions taking place as the Bush administration moves to shore up banks and other financial institutions with Treasury’s new powers.
The same “executive actions” that so many Democrats — and a majority of the American people — bitterly opposed? What the American people actually want — what they would certainly cheer — is an end to the corruption and collusion that led to the financial crisis, an end to the tyranny of the faux free market and an end to the Washington/Wall Street alliance. But who knows? If we demand it, and hold our leaders accountable — not inconceivable in this day of the Internet and instantaneous news, when it’s harder than ever to hide the actions of the powerful and their consequences — it just might happen. Never say never.