To the credit of the American people — and despite all the Bush administration/Repub-lican efforts at intimidation, threats, lies, spin and mudslinging — polls have shown the Bush Republicans in a free fall. In this highly charged atmosphere, with so many tight races, each vote can make the difference.

Who and what wins on Nov. 7 will determine the shape of the political landscape on Nov. 8 and beyond. Will Congress enact a planned troop withdrawal from Iraq or stay the disastrous Bush course? On the larger stage, will Congress rein in Bush first-strike aggression and imperial wars or continue to rubber stamp unbridled military might? Voters will set that terrain.

Will more doors open to opportunity, or will affirmative action and steps toward equality and democracy take a hit with the Michigan ballot proposal to bar consideration of diversity in state institutions? Will South Dakotans uphold women’s reproductive rights? Will the openly racist Republican campaign ads divert people from voting their real self-interest? Will Tennessee workers reject the “race card” and elect the first African American senator from the south since Reconstruction, over a century ago? Will immigrants face greater barriers and possibilities for violence, or will the way be open to win a sane, humane and just immigration policy?

Workers’ rights and job health and safety hang in the balance. A change in Congress will make the Employee Free Choice Act a reality, restoring the rights to organize and bargain a contract for millions.

Breaking the Republican control of Congress will open the door for action on key legislation to provide health care for all, rebuild New Orleans for those living there before Katrina, cut rates on student loans, assure a woman’s right to make her own reproductive decisions, boost clean energy — and assure voters their choices are counted.

Of course, even with the best outcome Nov. 7, today’s issues and crises will not disappear overnight. What happens next will depend on ordinary Americans making sure their elected representatives act to meet the needs of the vast majority in our country for peace, democracy and social and economic justice.