Nearly 80 million people performed their civic duty this week by voting in the midterm elections. Turnout approached 40 percent of eligible voters and Democrats drew more support than Republicans for the first time since 1990.
Noting the collapse of the Republican majority in both houses of Congress, President Bush referred to the dramatic shift of power as "a thumpin." Bush now faces the task of reaching across party lines to secure the support of the Democrats.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who stepped down as the nation's chief architect of the war in Iraq, was a nearly immediate casualty of the election results.
It remains to be seen if the message of the midterm election leads to further changes in the Bush administration ... and if the narrow governing majorities in Congress will result in gridlock during Bush's final two years in the White House. One thing is certain, though. The winds of change are gusting in the nation's capital and, consequently, in rural America.
Under new Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic power shift will trickle down into the crucial committees that control everything from energy policy to the next farm bill. Virginia Republican Bob Goodlatte cedes control of the House Agriculture Committee to Minnesota Democrat Collin Peterson.
The change however is not expected to dramatically alter the next farm bill. Peterson, campaigning in Nebraska prior to Election Day, pledged to keep the farm bill "as is." The Minnesotan emphasized that farm legislation largely was a bi-partisan affair rooted in regional differences rather than party affiliation.
The U.S. Senate is also in Democratic hands after crucial victories in Missouri, Montana, and a razor-thin win in Virginia. In the new Senate, Democrats and Republicans will be tied at 49 seats each. The two independents in the Senate, Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, will caucus with the Democratic Party.
As the Democrats retake leadership roles in the Senate, Iowa's Tom Harkin likely will reacquire his position as Chairman of the Agriculture Committee. Harkin was instrumental in pushing for conservation programs in the 2002 farm bill and likely will continue that focus in the 2007 farm bill.
But conservation is not the only thing on the future Democratic agenda. Democrats intend to push for a flurry of legislative initiatives:
Increase the minimum wage from $5.15 an hour to $7.25.
Let President's Bush's fast-track trade authority expire in mid-2007
And push for increased energy incentives for wind and solar power, as well as biodiesel and corn-based ethanol.