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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Now that you've got it

I used to wrestle in High School. I wasn't very good. I was big and fat and slow and uncoordinated. But joining the wrestling team was part of a process of reinventing myself in the afterglow of having fallen in love for the first time, and it was something I stuck with.

Late in the wrestling season we had a joint practice with another school. It was supposed to be a friendly practice - no crippling injuries or anything like that. We paired off with their wrestlers for a few minutes at a time and then moved around. As I was in the Heavyweight class, there weren't all that many wrestlers in my same weight class that I could practice against. At one point I wound up wrestling with their coach.

One thing I was - am - good at is leg work. A wrestler uses his legs like a second set of arms. Being heavy is an advantage here, since the simple act of walking around builds up your leg muscles tremendously. I wrestled hard and fast against the other team's coach, and after some hard fighting eventually got my legs into a grotesque pretzel twist around his in a position that didn't seem to make any sense. I had one arm under him and one arm free.

When we both realized I had gotten my legs into whatever the hell position I was trying to get them in, the coach spoke to me. "Now that you've got it," he said, "what are you going to do with it?"

As of this morning it looks like Democrats have managed to take both the House of Representatives and the Senate. The House was almost a given in the days leading up to the election, but no one was sure which way the Senate would go. Even now the 51-49 razor-thin majority is a little misleading, since at least one of the Democrats has been voting like a Republican for the past few years, and was in fact only elected on the basis of massive Republican support.

But now that the Democrats have it, what are they going to do with it?

It would be easy to take the Republican-majority path to the dark side of self-serving behavior, where political considerations outweigh the good of the people and protection of party members and adherence to party doctrine are paramount. Democrats will almost certainly be held responsible for every bad thing that happens in the country from this moment on - but that's nothing new, and is to be expected. Remember, President Clinton got the blame for both the 1993 World Trade Center bombing (which happened a few weeks after he took office after 12 years of Republicans in the White House) and the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks (which happened after George W. Bush had been in office for 234 days.)

Democrats have to be proactive, responsive, and decisive. They have to rally the support of the American people. There's so much that needs fixing. The biggest question is going to be: "Where do we start?" And they have to get started right away, as soon as they are sworn in.

"Now that you've got it, what are you going to do with it?" the other team's coach asked me.

I unfolded and untwisted my legs like an origami sculpture in reverse. Inexorably, his body twisted around on the mat. I reached out with my free arm and pressed his shoulders to the mat. He couldn't move. He was pinned.

"This," I said.

1 comment:

dee said...

Good points. I know there are a lot of people out there expecting the Democratic leadership to move in and start handing out subpoenas like Skittles on Halloween, but that's a recipe for disaster. We need to pick our battles, and a fine place to start is the implementation of the 9-11 Commission findings. We get to do something right for the country AND look like leaders on the "war on terror."