So much for the purported genius of Karl Rove and his vaunted plans for a permanent Republican majority.
Americans have voted tonight for checks and balances. By turning the House over to the Democrats, and by putting the Senate within reach (thanks to competitive races in three red states, no less), the voters have basically honored James Madison's dictum that it is wise to divide power between "opposite and rival interests," in order to "control the abuses of government."
Americans have put the brakes on one-party rule. They have judged the GOP to be guilty of hubris - a vice that typically afflicts those who wield clout without accountability - and so they have decided on the punishment, which is that now President Bush, in his lame duck years, must share power with those whom he only recently demonized as bad for America. He has basically spent the political capital that he boasted about in November of 2004, and now the bill has come due.
Americans decided tonight that Bush should be held accountable for the $2-billion-a-week stasis strategy in Iraq, and that his party should be held accountable for the institutional corruption in Washington. They did not signal a rejection of conservatism per se, nor did they endorse a return to liberalism. Their essential message was far more practical. They said to the ruling Republicans: you had your shot at doing things your way, you've screwed up, so now the other side gets a chance.
That's generally how the system crafted by the Founding Fathers has always worked. As a guide to his final two years, Bush might want to read the Federalist Papers. Number 51.