Win or lose, democracy stands
WASHINGTON -- And now, ladies and gentleman, a final round of applause for the real winners of the midterm elections: The American people, democracy and, yes, Howard Dean.
Whether their candidates won or lost, Americans can't but feel grateful for a nation and a government that allows us every few years to reinvent ourselves.
On Election Day, no one had to step over a pool of blood to get to the polls; no one had to risk a sniper's bullet or an IED to vote.
It is a remarkable thing, this process we take for granted; it is also good for the rest of the world to witness as Americans shift directions with civility and pledges of unity.
Whether those pledges hold is another matter, but the spirit implicit in the United States of America remains intact.
After his party's "thumpin','' as the president described the results, George W. Bush articulated what is best about this nation. A reporter had asked how he could work with someone such as presumptive House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who recently referred to Bush as, among other things, incompetent and a liar.
Bush replied: "I've been around politics a long time; I understand when campaigns end, and I know when governing begins. É If you hold grudges in this line of work, you're never going to get anything done.''
Imagine those words coming from a defeated Baathist.
Or Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's as he stepped down. Paraphrasing Winston Churchill, Rumsfeld said: "I have benefited greatly from criticism, and at no time have I suffered a lack thereof.''
Such moments elevate us when grace finds companionship in humility. That same acceptance was apparent among others who will be leaving government soon. All without gunfire, kidnappings or beheadings.
Americans have voted to change course, as the sound bite goes. That was the clear message to Washington. But the equally important message to the rest of the world went like this: See, we can do this. We are capable of being self-critical; we can be flexible; we can adjust without resorting to chaos.
Even as we clutch our wallets, Pelosi's words have a certain lyrical quality in the world of Abramoff, Foley and Ney. And, frankly, who better to clean house than a woman who has raised five children?