2006 is upon us, and a new year brings opportunities for change. Since 2006 will be a Congressional election year, we know that we can expect a year filled with campaigns and political sparring. We should also expect this mid-term election to be more attended than previous similar elections, as the American people find themselves at a crossroads once again. Serious issues are on the table that will have long-reaching consequences for the state of our country, and the outcome of this election year will either repudiate the policies of the current government or bolster its confidence to continue along the current path.

Most readers of Common Sense already understand that I am no fan of the current administration. My disgust with the Bush presidency stems partly from the basic ideology they operate from and partly from the total incompetence they have shown in their policies and the implementation of them. This administration has eroded our national reputation in the world at large, has sacrificed the future opportunities of the poor and middle classes while helping the rich get richer for the sake of being richer, and distorted the rule of law as suits their whim. The bulk of the Republican members of Congress have marched along with the Bush agenda, abetting this shameless administration while walking hand in hand with their big money donors all the way to the bank. Corruption investigations of prominent Republican lawmakers, aides, and businessmen have exposed this party for what it has become, and rank and file Republicans across the country should be outraged. In 2006, maybe the Republicans can reclaim their party from the greedy and the warmongers and reach back to their roots supporting fiscal sanity, less intrusive federal government policies, and rational foreign policy objectives. And maybe they can restrain the vocal religious minority in their ranks who wish to legislate their theological doctrines, recognizing that religion belongs with the individual, not with the loudest proselytizer.

The Democrats seem energized at times and lackluster at others. So far, they have not been much of an opposition party during the Bush years, and they certainly have not been a party of ideas. Typically, the Democrats have served only as a bulwark against the most extreme positions of the Bush administration, while helping to pass or idly standing by as the face of this country becomes less and less familiar. Belatedly, Democrat lawmakers have begun to pressure the administration as more questionable practices are brought to light, but they are at the very least complicit in the growing degradation of this nation. In 2006, Democrats need to develop a vision that speaks to today’s citizens and problems, relying less on the status quo and more on leadership with the vision and courage to chart a new path for these tricky times. They need to envelop their disparate supporters and unify their agenda for change, while continuing to challenge the current leadership’s king-like tendencies. And they need to shed the perception that they are elitists and embrace core American voters.

Despite the corruption that runs wild in the halls of government, the real work lies with the American people. In all of Congress (435 Representatives, 100 Senators) there are only 2 Independent legislators. They are both from Vermont. With millions of Americans discarding the label of Republican or Democrat, where is their voice in Congress? 2006 should be the beginning of a groundswell of independent candidates and voices in the political process. Independents can espouse the best ideas of both parties without worrying about a “base ideology.” They can use real common sense and work for legislation that benefits all citizens, not just their party faithful. America should not be a country of us versus them. It should be a country of us, with laws created that balance the personal freedom of the individual with the necessary sacrifices of the whole. If we are ever to move forward and make the changes necessary to keep America safe, competitive, and prosperous in the future, we need to hear from more Americans who are not captive to an exclusionary ideology.

The issues that loom on the horizon include real health care reform for all Americans; real education reform that puts students first and adults second; a real energy policy that advances American energy independence; a real immigration policy that is enforced and viable; a focused and well thought out plan to end the war in Iraq and combat real world terrorism; and ending the assault on American citizens by our government, including the decay of civil rights, the inane drug war, and the plight of the poor.

2006 will be more than just a political year. We will surely face new natural disasters that expose our weakness when facing nature’s wrath. We will likely learn about more political and business corruption. We will surely face more terrorism around the world. 2006 will not see an end to these problems. But the current path we are on isn’t making our world a better place for anyone outside the political and business class that always benefits from a small minded, closed government. Let’s see 2006 be the year the people took back their government, their lives, and their future.