If ever there has been a defining moment in the past four years, it was probably last years midterm elections. That November laid bare a lesson for all to learn who still cared about the thing that matters most to politicians: what the American people want, the American people get.
Even with an unprecedented level of GOP gerrymandering lead by former House majority leader Tom DeLay, and with the typical fund-raising advantages, even with the most feared and respected political operative of the past decade hunkered down in the White House and a recent record of devastating last-minute electoral victories, the people made up their minds and went to the polls with a near singular purpose: put Democrats back in charge of Congress.
Some say that it was the Iraq war all along, while others will say it was the congressional page sex scandal that was the tipping point. Disenfranchisement of the religious-right for not getting everything they had been promised by President Bush is another argument. But all of these things can be traced back to an unhappy country that wanted change in Washington, and what the voters want, the voters get.
The President's polling numbers show that he is considered one of the worst leaders in our short history. That's an interesting feat for someone who won a second term. You'd think that someone so reviled wouldn't stand a chance, that such strong negative opinions would have been formed long ago.
His handling of the Afghani and Iraqi wars were at one time his greatest strength, but now they've become his greatest weakness. Had he settled in for the long haul in Afghanistan, that country may well be what he desperately wished Iraq was today -- a shining beacon of democracy in a hostile land that could desperately use a lot more of it.
Perhaps the President could have used that success as leverage during the final two years of his presidency in the current conflict with Iran, showing that the United States when threatened and attacked would not hesitate to go on the offensive to put its adversaries into the ground. And yet had it remained our sole focus over the years, it may have slowly grown into a stable example of what lay in store for the Middle East if it embraced the rule of the common man and peace through cooperation.
Instead, Afghanistan was ignored and quickly deteriorated into a prewar slum ruled by drug lords and radical Islamic ideologues with only self-serving interest.
If the midterms were a national referendum on Bush's War, then the message was clear that a majority of Americans want the fighting to end, sooner rather than later. They sent this message by the only means available, taking hawkish Republicans who supported the war even when it wasn't in their own best interests to do so, and replacing them with Democrats and moderates that support fighting terrorists on their own turf if and when required, but ones not interested in digressing into a form of misguided colonialism in the name of national security.
The results were unanimous. No Republican won a Democratic seat in the House or Senate. If memory serves, no Republican took over a Democratic governorship. It was just as much of a rout as the pundits had predicted it would be.
While Democrats floundered on the war early on, they have since coalesced in firm opposition, while Republicans have increasingly tightened their ranks by attacking their own party for breaking with the President's position. By the time the elections came, the two parties were split as perfectly as either side could hope for, meaning whichever side had the majority support from the people was going to win -- and win big.
The people spoke, saying that anyone who supported the war was no longer welcome to represent them on the hill. Since last November, the polls have shown increasing discontent with Bush's War, with a strong majority of the people now saying that they would rather have Congress in charge of foreign policy -- a prospect that I find rather disturbing.
Many members may be more qualified to handle this issue than the President and his cabinet, but it was not a power meant for them to wield. It is inarguable that foreign policy is strictly the purview of the President and no one else.
It is precisely because of this that it is so stunning that public polling shows such distrust for the President that people would rather restructure the government than allow Bush to fowl things up anymore than he already has.
Where will Iraq be in eight years? Free of American soldiers, that much is certain. Whether you support the war or not, support the troops or not, support withdrawal or not, whether the President is a Democrat or a Republican, there will be no significant number of American soldiers in Iraq in eight years.
How can I be so certain? Because the American people have made up their mind that this war cannot be won, not by us, and probably not by the Iraqi's. It is a conflict that must be settled -- it cannot be won. Sunni and Shia must decide that peace is favorable to war, and that day will see the end of the bloodshed.
When that day will come is not something I nor anyone else can predict, but we will not be around to see it either way.
The country spoke on the war when they placed Democrats in control of Congress and because this President will not listen, they will speak again in 2008 when they select his replacement. Unless a Republican candidate comes out in opposition of the war and can successfully explain his or her recent change of heart, they will fail.
This is Bush's War, and the next Republican nominee will be forced to carry the torch or abandon the man who has been their parties torch barer for the past eight years. The American people -- over 60% of them -- want out of Iraq today, and support cutting all funding for the war if that is what it takes to get our troops home.
If they are willing to take such drastic steps, how can the outcome of the 2008 election be any more certain than it is today? Party labels won't matter at all, the only question will be whether or not the nominee will bring our troops home, or pledge to continue this unwinnable war.
If Republicans do not heed the warning they were sent in November, the next election will carry far graver consequences than the last one. It is not inconceivable -- with three Republicans seats up for every Democrat in the Senate -- that Democrats could come within striking distance of a political holy grail: a veto-proof majority.
Though in the end it probably won't matter, because anyone who stands in the way of the peoples intent to put an end to this war won't be around afterwards to complain about it.