Paul Begala: A Democratic Congress and President Barack Obama Would Benefit the United States

Blame the Republican Party for the nation's recent ills, Democratic strategist Paul Begala writes.

Composite photo of Begala (L) and DeLay (R)

Composite photo of Begala (L) and DeLay (R)

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Americans are pragmatic. We don't think a lot about theory; we want results. While Mr. DeLay and I live in a world dominated by partisanship and ideology, most Americans, like the ones I grew up with in Missouri City, Texas (which happens to be in Mr. DeLay's old congressional district), don't care a whole lot about party labels.

There is not a Republican way to pick up the trash or a Democratic way to pave a road. Real Americans are like Larry the Cable Guy: "Get 'er done." And so the test for the new president and the new Congress—no matter what their party affiliations are—will be: Are you getting things done for the American people?

Our new leaders will take office facing the greatest combination of threats abroad and economic collapse at home that any leaders have faced since Franklin Roosevelt. It's important to note that our problems are not accidental. They are the result of policy decisions. Policy decisions made by Republicans. It was Republicans who told us that Saddam Hussein posed such an imminent threat that he could no longer be contained by the bipartisan Clinton-Bush (41) strategy of sanctions, weapons inspections, and bombings. It was Republicans who gave us a FEMA director who was so incompetent that people in the Gulf Coast died while our president told him he was doing "a heckuva job." It was Republicans who pushed to deregulate Wall Street, allowing moneyed elites to create what Warren Buffett called "financial weapons of mass destruction."

My point is that if our American house is on fire, it's not because of an act of nature but rather an act of men and women. The fire was not caused by a lightning strike—it was arson. And so, the American people, sensibly, practically, logically, are turning away from Republicans in record numbers. In 2006, they gave control of the House to the Democrats for the first time in 12 years. They gave control of the Senate to the Democrats for good measure. And if the polls and trends are to be believed, they're not finished yet. There's a good chance that the American people will increase the Democrats' majorities in both chambers and send Barack Obama to the White House as well.

No doubt Mr. DeLay thinks the American people are stupid, foolish, and ignorant. I disagree. I have faith in democracy—a faith that was sorely tested lo those many years my neighbors kept sending Mr. DeLay back to Congress—but an enduring faith nonetheless.

Party history. So, the question is not whether united or divided government is preferable. When the House, Senate, and White House were in Democratic hands, we got Social Security, Medi-care, civil rights, and the Clinton economic plan, which created 23 million new jobs and ushered in the strongest economy in history. And Mr. DeLay wants you to be worried about Demo-crats taking the reins again?

With power will come responsibility and accountability. If the Democrats mess things up, there's another election in two years. But if they make progress cleaning up the mess George W. Bush and the Republicans created—and it's a whale of a mess—they will be rewarded. After FDR cleaned up Hoover's mess—with a Democratic House and Senate—my party was rewarded with decades of victory. If a President Obama (good lord willing) and a Democratic Congress actually make progress on the mountains of GOP mistakes—digging out of this economic mess, redeploying our troops out of Iraq, turning back the resurgent tide of terrorism in Afghanistan, making us less dependent on unstable sources of foreign oil, reviving the American Dream of owning your home, sending your kids to college, and retiring in security, giving citizens access to the same health insurance politicians give themselves—if they can make progress on any or all of those mammoth problems—well, maybe the American people will reward my party with decades of victory again.

Perhaps that's what Mr. DeLay is truly afraid of.