As many have noticed (and here), there is an effort afoot to stress that the Democrats elected last night are "really just Republicans" paraphrasing Candy Crowley, or at least more conservative than the old-style Dems. Clearly, this is wrong on three counts at least: One, the Dems believe in governing, not simply taking power at all costs, like the GOP. Two, they really believe in democratic government, at least more than the GOP. They will never behave like the GOP in power because they value policy and process more. Three, they really are refinding themselves as the party as the common folks and the common good.
One of the best analyses is from Chuck Todd, who notes that we now have four regional parties, the Northeast liberal/moderates, the Southern conservatives, the Midwest populists, and the Western libertarians. This is, of course, an oversimplification, but it has a great deal of truth. But obscured in much of the talking head chatter is the fact that many of the Dems elected last night, even if they are socially conservative, like Heath Shuler, or sympathetic to the military, like Jim Webb (assuming his victory holds), are also economic populists. Sherrod Brown is liberal on both counts, as is Sheldon Whitehouse. It was the most conservative Dem challenger, Harold Ford, who went down to defeat. The majority of Dems elected last night do not worship on the altar of big business and rigged markets and "free trade" that is neither. They do not favor privatizing Social Security or otherwise shredding the safety net. They favor helping the middle class, not the wealthy. In a word, they clearly are not Republicans in disguise, even though some share many of the more socially conservative attitudes of their constituents.
Moreover, the Dems owe their victories above all to the public's opposition to the War in Iraq. That is what drove many people to the polls, That, plus Katrina and corruption, is what outraged the middle. Look at the victories in Iowa and New Hampshire. The lock-step GOPers went down to defeat over Iraq all over the country. An yes, many House freshmen realize that they have a target on their backs, but then so do the GOPers who narrowly dodged defeat last night.
The Dem leadership won't be ego-driven overreachers like Newt Gingrich. They are too smart for that. They know they have to deliver what they can. But they understand who brung them to DC, and they will pay attention to the middle as well as the base. They may not be your father's Democrats, but thery certainly aren't Republicans. If they were, they wouldn't have won.
Bush capitulates already. Rumsfeld out as Secretary of Defense, to be replaced by Robert Gates, former head of the CIA, member of the Baker-Hamilton Commission and close to Bush's father. His Dad's people are coming in to pick up the pieces. Now we know why Cheney went hunting.