ALEXANDRIA, VA. — With a Democratic victory of this historic size, many will claim success, and that's fine, so let me start by giving credit to the netroots.
But first, who are the netroots? They are the online activists who work to revitalize a Democratic Party that will further a progressive agenda. Unlike the conservative ideologues that have held the trifecta of power this decade, the people-powered netroots herald a much-needed return of non- dogmatic pragmatism to our politics. And that's good news for America, because if we don't provide leadership, the solutions to the world's problems will be decades in the making. Having apparently wrested control of both houses of Congress, Democrats must ensure that this win transforms problems into solutions, and in so doing, builds a lasting progressive congressional majority.
Let's look at how Democrats won, because how a candidate wins a race, and how a party wins a majority, goes a long way to showing how they will govern. Certainly, that is the case with the Republican Party this decade, which seemed to have no conscience in its greed, its quest for more power, and its readiness to ignore and even enable rampant corruption among its ranks. Republicans believe that government is the problem, and have ruled with problem-making as their governing philosophy.
On the Democratic side, a people-powered movement that has been building and maturing this decade crossed a Rubicon with Tuesday's historic victory. The lessons are clear.
No longer will people rely on conventional wisdom to dictate how campaigns are waged. Instead, millions of online activists will guide the campaign strategies of progressives to succeed from this point forward.
No longer is the Democratic Party mired in a battleground mentality that shrinks the competitive map. We changed the map, and once again, we are a national party, with the mandate to compete in all 50 states.
No longer will people look to the establishment to tell them whom to fund, nor will they continue to believe that inside-the- Beltway consultants know better. To establish better campaign practices, the netroots will select and fund movement candidates that value person-to-person persuasion and niche media, instead of wasting millions on broadcast television ads.
No longer will people look toward single-interest groups for leadership, as we will place the progressive movement ahead of the minority cobweb of me-first politics, knowing that all boats will be lifted with a rising progressive tide. No longer will we hoist up politicians that adhere to a say-nothing poll-tested message designed not to offend. We will opt instead for authentic individuals that lead with conviction.
And no longer will a mass-media propaganda machine, which serves only the interests of the few, intimidate progressives into accepting defeat. Democrats won because ordinary people took a stand against radical Republican rule.
A change of direction for the US occupation of Iraq is now mandated. However, if Democrats are to build a lasting majority in Congress, then this must also mark the adoption of a worldview that leads in a new direction – neither the Democratic Party's liberal past nor the Republican Party's now discredited conservative concoction of social divisiveness, world domination, and tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. The issue is not the size or the role of government, but instead the role that people play in our political process – both through electoral and policy efforts.
The stakes are high, and the times are too serious for ideologues to pretend they have the answers to our problems. Neither should Democrats feel that they are able to ignore the people and indulge in another business-as-usual session of Congress. Not a single Democrat should take for granted that the nation will reward them with another victory if they merely stay on a path of incremental change. If they try and play it safe, they will face upheaval.
Now is the time for a transformational, interconnected solution to America's problems with energy, the economy, the environment, and national security. It's time to provide solutions, and if our newly elected Democratic Congress fails to grasp this as their mandate, their newfound majority won't last long.
Transparency and accountability are the new rules. No Democrat, no matter how entrenched they are, should feel that they are removed from the power of direct democracy.
People-powered politics is what won this election for the Democratic Party. With this victory, power is returning to where it belongs in a democracy – with the people.
• Jerome Armstrong, co-author of "Crashing the Gate: Netroots, Grassroots, and the Rise of People-Powered Politics," is founder of the political blog, MyDD.com.