Having actively participated in the new House Republican majority in 1995 and now watching the new Democratic majority fumble its way to the finish line here in 2007, here is some friendly advice about surviving in divided government in the first year of a new majority:

1) Finish your work in a timely fashion. It might seem pedestrian, but the primary role of the Congress is to spend money. That means finishing its appropriations work on time and not in a big omnibus bill. Had the Democrats sent the president each appropriations bill individually, they would have had huge majorities for each bill and the president wouldn’t have bothered vetoing them. But now the president has all the leverage, and the congressional majority has all the headaches.

2) Learn about the Senate. The Senate has different rules, different traditions and different expectations than the House. They can’t move legislation expeditiously. They don’t have a rules committee. When Charlie Rangel accuses Senate Democrats of having “Stockholm Syndrome” it might make him feel better, just like it made Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay feel better when they called the Senate all kinds of names in mid-’90s. But calling the Senate names doesn’t get your agenda passed. Understanding how it works does.

3) The president is always relevant. Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonDemocratic group plans mobile billboard targeting Collins on impeachment Political science has its limits when it comes to presidential prediction Walsh plans protest at RNC headquarters over 'nakedly anti-Democratic' primary cancellations MORE was relevant even in his darkest days, and George Bush is relevant now. Even if a president is a lame duck, he still has a veto pen, and if he can get one chamber to sustain his vetoes, he has the juice. Calling the president names — as Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidThe Trumpification of the federal courts Trump to rally evangelicals after critical Christianity Today editorial Left presses 2020 Democrats to retake the courts from Trump MORE has done, and as several House Republican leaders did — is degrading, not to the president, but to the name caller.

4) Keep your promises. This is harder than it sounds because with the thrill of a new majority comes the temptation to make expansive promises that are impossible to keep. For Republicans in 1995, they promised to get rid of the departments of Commerce, Energy and Education. For Democrats today, they promised to end the war in Iraq. The promise to get rid of whole departments didn’t necessarily hurt Republicans because nobody believed that they could do it anyway. But their own supporters are vilifying the Democrats because the hard left actually believed the anti-war rhetoric of the new majority.

5) Understand who makes your majority. The base voter does not make your majority. The swing voter does. It is vitally important that you listen to the concerns of those members in swing districts. You make them march the plank on vote after vote; you won’t be in the majority for long. For Nancy Pelosi, she better be listening to Baron Hill and Health Schuler, and the 59 other Democrats who represent Republican-leaning districts. Her left-wing constituents may not like it, but if she doesn’t compromise for those folks, she will have a pretty short tenure as Speaker.

6) Big change is hard, small change is easy. Huge reforms are difficult to do. The system is inherently conservative, especially with a closely divided electorate. Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonFormer Vermont Governor: Sanders 'will play dirty' NYT: Justice investigating alleged Comey leak of years-old classified info New Hampshire state lawmaker switches support from Warren to Klobuchar MORE found this out with her attempt to reform healthcare, as did George Bush with Social Security. But look what happened over the last 10 years with veterans’ healthcare. Under Bob Stump and then Chris Smith, in a serious of small steps, with small bills that always went to the floor under suspension of the rules, a procedure that requires a two-thirds vote, the VA health system went from being an embarrassment to one of the finest healthcare systems in the world.

House Democrats are making many of the same mistakes that the House Republicans made in 1995, with one big exception. House Republicans actually achieved some huge changes with their majority, including welfare reform and a balanced budget that helped spur economic growth and a budget surplus in three short years. It is hard to see what achievement the Democrats are driving for that will resonate with the voters 11 months from now.