WAYNE DOWDY: Americans voted for some major changes

Americans had enough.

We are tired of the war in Iraq, the growing national debt, constant deficit spending and elected officials unresponsive and out of touch.

That, no doubt, led to the biggest change in U.S. government and politics in 12 years when voters on Tuesday put Democrats in control of the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House.

So, what does this mean for the United States and Mississippi?

For starters, Democrats will be a major player in Washington during the last two years of Republican President George Bush's second term.

We have a chance to put this country back on solid ground. We can help formulate national policy. And we can lay the groundwork for a successful 2008 presidential campaign.

But, more importantly, this election places an enormous amount of ressure and responsibility on President Bush and the soon-to-be Democratic-led U.S. Senate and U.S. House.

Bush must find a way to work with a party whose members, in many instances, oppose much of his agenda. And Democrats have the responsibility of pushing issues that led to the party's dramatic win.

It no doubt will be a tricky balancing act – one that will play a key role in shaping the issues and field of candidates in the 2008 presidential election.

In Mississippi, we must keep a close eye on what happens in Washington.

As we head toward the 2007 statewide elections, our state also is faced with a divided government and fractured electorate.

Democrats here would do well to analyze how the party managed to win back the U.S. Senate and U.S. House. Perhaps we can modify the successful strategies into a game plan for next year's state, county and legislative races.

While Mississippi government isn't burdened with the Iraq war or deficit spending, we have other important issues that have been handled poorly by Republican Gov. Haley Barbour and other Republicans in the state Legislature.

For example, Barbour opposes full funding for the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, designed to ensure every school has enough money to meet at least Level 3, or midlevel, accreditation.

The governor also has worked to remove the elderly from the state's Medicaid program. He has botched management of the Hurricane Katrina Homeowner Grant Program. And he vetoed proposals earlier this year to eliminate or reduce the sales tax on groceries.

These issues are critical to moving Mississippi forward and providing a strong quality of life for everyone – just like the war in Iraq, deficit spending and the federal debt are important on the national level.

The Mississippi Democratic Party is poised to make major strides next year similar to what the national party did on Tuesday. And for that, we can thank Howard Dean, the Democratic National Committee chairman.

Dean believes in rebuilding the party from the ground up, stressing the need for strong local and state organizations to serve as a foundation on which to build the national party.

If you look at what happened last week and then consider the potential we have in Mississippi next year, you'll see Dean's strategy at work.

The Mississippi Democratic Party is on the right track, our future looks great and we will build on the momentum from our national success last week. It's a great time to be a Democrat in Mississippi.

Wayne Dowdy, an attorney from McComb, is chairman of the Mississippi Democratic Party. Dowdy is a former mayor of McComb and former U.S. House member, who served in Washington from July 1981 until January 1989.

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