Political junkies can hardly count the minutes until the returns start coming in. Pollsters and pundits have been feeding the addiction with new data from the latest surveys, early voting trends, and stories from the campaign trail. The big question: just how high will the Republican wave go and how hard will it hit the Democratic party?
Yet that's not really what this election is about. It's important, of course, to send current Congressional leadership home. Representatives need to be reminded that they truly are accountable to voters. Importantly, voters also won't just be sending a new set of political insiders to Washington. Many of the newly elected will come from outside of the political arena. This will change Congressional culture, and the GOP in particular will be a different party. Republicans aren't just adding seats; they are gaining numerous outspoken champions of more limited government and free markets. These new Members hopefully will hold the party to account, as well as the government.
Voters celebrating tonight, however, would be wise to temper their festivities. Recall that two years ago liberals were celebrating. Voters should be warned that the real battle starts tomorrow to ensure that the newly elected live up to campaign pledges. Elected officials will need to hear the message again and again: if this new Congressional leadership doesn't focus on delivering on its promises, listening to the American people, and truly rolling back Washington and returning power to the people, then this victory will be equally short-lived.
While similarities exist between this year's “wave” election and the election of 2008, which propelled President Obama and significant Democratic Congressional majorities into power, there's a critical difference. In 2008, the President ran on “change” and “hope,” themes voters found compelling, but few knew exactly what they would mean when applied to the real business of governing. This ambiguity hasn't made President Obama's supporters any less disappointed: they may not have been able to articulate what they were expecting, but they certainly know that the Administration has failed to make good even on these most vague promises.