At least that was the perception leading up to Election Day, 1994.
This time, it's beyond perception -- it's objective reality. The parties have changed, but the crimes are the same. And the Republicans are, in the court of public opinion as reflected in recent polls, guilty on all counts: for spending beyond our means, for botching the war in Iraq, for dividing the country in times that call for unity, for failing -- in so many ways -- to live up to their own rhetoric on ethics and morality.
The gig is all but up: Hurricane Katrina proved, finally, that the Grand Old Party has become expert at the art of politics but has absolutely no clue how to run a country. Newt Gingrich has long been banished; Tom DeLay, indicted. Since he put politics ahead of pages, Dennis Hastert is barely hanging on; and Bill Frist drank political hemlock when he took on the Terry Schiavo case. All that's left of the once-proud Republican Party, in case you haven't noticed, is Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Karl Rove. Oh yeah, and fear. Lots and lots of fear-mongering.
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & E & lt;/span & very once in a while, an election rolls around that is about more than where the two candidates stand on health care and free trade. Sometimes elections are about what it means to be an American. Sometimes our elections -- like in 1964, 1976 and 1994 -- serve as a kind of national reset button.
Back in 1994, the epicenter of the political earthquake that hit America was right here in the 5th District, where the sitting Speaker of the House found himself on the wrong side of history. Still, the result of that race had absolutely nothing to do with the relative merits of Tom Foley and George Nethercutt. It was all about what was going on in the nation's capital.
Here in 2006, it's all about what's going on in another capital: Baghdad.
Whether Peter Goldmark or Cathy McMorris has the smoother answer to questions about Fairchild Air Force Base or the Endangered Species Act doesn't really matter this year; it's all just background noise. In the end, she's part of the problem, and he's part of the solution.
McMorris picked an inopportune time to launch a career as a Republican congresswoman. Valued only as a vote in the machine, she proved herself exactly that, voting with the leadership 97 percent of the time. She played the money game, too, taking thank-you contributions from Hastert and DeLay. The system she walked into has failed her, just as this last Congress has failed us all.
Here's a quick recap: Congress held one of the shortest, least productive sessions in recent memory, in the judgment of Washington Post columnist David Broder. It started with members trying to figure out how to let Tom DeLay keep his majority leader post and ended with them circling the wagons around Speaker Hastert, who appears to have known about Mark Foley and did nothing. And they left all the spending bills until later -- going home to campaign before dealing with the toughest part of their job.
As a final insult, they passed the revocation of habeas corpus protection for Americans -- a new low in American history. It's the kind of undermining of the Constitution the terrorists must relish. Next time you hear George W. Bush talk about "freedom," don't forget that he's the one that put an asterisk next to it.
And the Republicans may have done it for the most cynical of reasons -- to look tough on terror in the run-up to the election. Let's hope that's all it is, since now George W. Bush has the power to lock you up -- and you would have absolutely no legal recourse.
If that doesn't send shivers up your spine, let's rephrase: (potential future) President Hillary Clinton would have the power to lock you up -- and you would have absolutely no legal recourse.
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & T & lt;/span & imes of historic change bring fresh leadership, too, and Goldmark would bring a powerful commitment to common sense with him to Congress. Starting in January, the best way to right the ship of state will be by getting back to basics, and common sense -- a trait you earn from living a full life, as Goldmark has done -- will be in high demand.
The comparison between the rancher from Okanogan and McMorris, whose only adult professional experience is being a politician, couldn't be any more stark. Goldmark's feet are rooted in the soil of Eastern Washington; using his Ph.D. in molecular biology, he has even invented his own strain of wheat. And despite studying at both Cal-Berkeley and Harvard, Goldmark's cowboy hat is no act.
Personally, Goldmark has raised five children, buried his brother (who was murdered as an unintended result of hateful politics) and suffered through the loss of his wife to cancer. These are profound life experiences -- the kinds that endow someone with wisdom and courage. Peter Goldmark has exactly the depth and strength of character to represent the 5th District in these times of need.
Goldmark also represents a new breed of politician -- the kind you'll be hearing more about in the future. Born in the Mountain West, the conservative Democrat movement is giving the struggling party an identity that most Americans can relate to. Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer is the role model, and along with Goldmark, there are dozens more candidates in this mold running for office across the West right now. They share many bedrock conservative values -- on guns and God -- but they are throwback Democrats in that they always stick up for the little guy. It's a trend that will be healthy for the somewhat aimless Democratic Party -- and the country.
The Republican Revolution of 1994 devolved, as most have (our own American revolution being the conspicuous exception), into a lust for pure power. While the revolution of '94 reshaped the political landscape, it has collapsed under the weight of its own greed and hubris. Republican intellectuals have recognized this to be the case for some time now.
And the American people see it, too. Watching young Americans die or have their lives ruined for a war with no clear, achievable mission -- a war that Republicans like Cathy McMorris say you should never question -- is exactly why outrage is taking over.
"I look at [the current situation] as sort of a freight train heading down the tracks toward a cliff at 100 miles an hour. I think it's time to get somebody in there to put on the brakes and slow down the freight train."
Candidate George Nethercutt used that analogy before his big win back in 1994. Now, 12 years later, we understand exactly how he felt.
Make no mistake about it: A vote for Cathy
McMorris is a vote for George W. Bush. It's a vote for staying the course, reality be damned, in Iraq and at home. And we already know we can't put up with that.