Flush with victory built on incursions in the South and West, Congressional Democratic leaders promised to use their new power to join President-elect Barack Obama in pursuing an aggressive agenda that puts top priority on the economy, health care, energy and ending the Iraq war.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who spoke with Mr. Obama by phone on Wednesday morning, said that they had made plans to discuss coordinated efforts for the transition and the new Congress, but that a more ambitious agenda would unfold next year.
“Our priorities have tracked the Obama campaign priorities for a very long time,” Ms. Pelosi said at a news conference where she cited the economy, health care, energy and the Iraq war as topping the agenda.
She said Democrats were talking with the Bush White House about a potential $61 billion economic stimulus that could be approved in a lame-duck session.
But Ms. Pelosi said Democrats could open the 111th Congress in January with efforts to adopt measures blocked by President Bush, including ones to expand the State Children’s Health Insurance Program and embryonic stem cell research. She said Democrats had no choice but to chart a centrist course. “The country must be governed from the middle,” she said. But Democrats on both sides of the Capitol were just beginning to digest the new faces in their expanded caucuses.
As Nat-Wu bluntly asked in an email "What's the bullshit talk about governing from the center?" I happen to think Pelosi is trying to game expectations more than anything (which are very, very high after the Obama win) but without a doubt there's still a class of pundits on both the left and the right who think that Democrats can only get done and maintain their political power by emulating Republicans to a large degree and governing as if America were still in it's heart of hearts a nation that leans to the right despite a wholesale rejection of the GOP. And yet strangely, polls support Democrats on any number of issues, including the war, health care, labor policies, the environment, and so on. Without a doubt, Democrats are hampered in tackling some of these issues by the sheer scale of the economic downturn, but no Democrat in his or her right mind should think that they should be beholden to outdated notions held by some pundits about what Americans do and do not want. As Paul Waldman notes in the Think Progress post I like to above, "success builds upon success." Democrats will not advance their own interests or win further elections by governing in fearful anticipation of a phantom negative reaction by the public. They will win by demonstrating they can solve the most pressing problems faced by our nation, and by showing initiative, bold thinking and political courage.