Skip to comments.The Democrats in decline
Posted on 11/09/2002 4:40:12 PM PST by knighthawk
JFK had it wrong: Defeat has a thousand fathers. Two days later, and already the Democrats' miserable performance in Tuesday's mid-term elections has produced a sheaf of political paternity suits. It was the fault of the Democratic leadership. No, it was President Bush and his bully pulpit. Unless it was the failure of the Dems to present a coherent alternative. Or maybe it's just the war.
These explanations all have one thing in common: They treat the results a matter of tactics, the election as a singular event. Certainly campaigns matter. And certainly the results are striking, measured against a number of historic benchmarks: The first time the party that controlled the White House has increased its seat count in both houses at mid-term since 1934, the first time the Republicans have managed it ever. But what is more striking is not how anomalous these results are, but how consistent they are with recent electoral trends.
This is not the first time the Republicans have controlled both houses of Congress. Indeed, they have done so through five straight elections, since the 1994 mid-terms. This is not even the first time a Republican president has governed with the help of a Republican House and Senate. That happened in 2000, for the first time in nearly a century, though it was overlooked in all the Florida madness. This election has merely confirmed a growing Republic stranglehold, one that has been in the works for two decades, and one that the Democrats seem helpless to break.
The best way to show this is to contrast it with what went before. Through nearly five decades, from FDR in 1932 to the end of the 1970s, the Democrats dominated national politics in the United States. For all but four of those years, they controlled both houses. Even when there was a Republican in the White House, he usually faced an overwhelmingly Democratic Congress.
The first crack in this regime came in 1980. Not only did Ronald Reagan win the presidency, but the Republicans took control of the Senate for the first time since 1954. Though Bill Clinton's victory in 1992 seemed to signal a swing back to the Democrats, in fact the opposite happened. Just two years later, the GOP took both the Senate and the House, on the strength of the famous "Contract With America." And though conventional wisdom holds that the Republicans overplayed their hand after that, mistaking a protest vote for a mandate, it should be clear by now that 1994 was no fluke. It used to be a bad election for the Democrats if they won fewer than 240 seats in the House. In the last five elections, they have never won more than 211.
The last two have been the worst. The Dems couldn't win in 2000, with a Democrat in the White House and the strongest economy in many years. And they couldn't win in 2002, with a Republican in the White House and the weakest economy in many years. Something fundamental is at work here, beyond the particular tactics adopted in any one election. The Democrats are caught in the vortex of history, on the wrong side of an intellectual debate that was decided long ago, marooned by the slowly retreating tide of welfare-statism.
The Clinton presidency -- perhaps "interregnum" is better -- was itself a tacit acknowledgement of that: Indeed, though personally successful he may well have accelerated the Democrats' long-term decline. Mr. Clinton won as a New Democrat, a centrist who had borrowed much of the Republicans' clothes. After the 1994 debacle, he tilted further toward the GOP, often pushing through legislation over the objections of his own party -- a strategy that became known as "triangulation." It made him a difficult target, and seemed to flummox the Republicans, long enough to win him re-election.
But triangulation has its perils. One, it makes you look shifty and opportunistic, without principled foundations. Two, it amounts to conceding that your opponents are right. And three, eventually you run out of policies to steal. It helped that the Republicans, in the face of this cleverness, kept their nerve: Rather than try a reverse-Clinton, they moved the yardsticks still further, and dared the Democrats to follow them. Agree with them or not, they set the agenda, as they have been doing since Reagan. The Democrats have been reduced to one of two responses: "Don't," or "Oh all right, but let us do it."
It is in this context that the incoherence of the Democratic campaign in this election should be understood. What do you do when you are on the wrong side of history? Agree with Mr. Bush's tax cuts, for example, and you give voters little reason to choose you. Oppose them, and you risk being marginalized.
This is about much more than Mr. Bush's likeability, in short, or the immediate issues of war and homeland security. The building of the welfare state took many decades, in which the left won many important -- and permanent -- victories: It is accepted on all sides that the state has certain social responsibilities, even by those who would prefer these were addressed by less statist means. The unwinding of the Leviathan state is likewise a decades-long process, which has barely begun. Until it is completed, the Democrats will be on the defensive.
Today's democrat party is disconnected from leadership power at every level of government.
1) The democrat party doesn't have the White House.(1R-0d)
2) The democrat party lacks a majority in the Senate.(51R-48d-1)
3) The democrat party lacks a majority in the House of Representatives.(226R-209d)
4) The democrat party lacks a majority of Governors seats across the 50 states.(25R-25d)
5) The democrat party lacks a majority of State Houses across all 50 states. (25R-22d)
Today's democrat party doesn't enjoy majority leadership at either the state or federal level.
I don't want them on the defensive,
I want them on the run!
I want their leadership routed and broken!
I want their dispirited followers slapping their heads and crying,"How could we have been so BLIND !"
In the meantime, the Democrats tried to run on 'Economy, Stupid' but it didn't amount to anything, because people knew the ranting was overblown. The economy is weak, but except for certain regions (where I live, gag!), it's not that bad. And no one this side of LewRockwell.com and Democrats Underground actually believes we're living in the early years of Great Depression II.
The economy should improve by 2004, and in that year, Republicans should be running on that.
Oh, and that wasn't just on TOMPETERDAN or CNN. It was on FREE REPUBLIC.
Here are a couple of threads from during the 2000 campaign, showing the venom of the Buchananites, one of the most virulently anti-Bush factions. There were TONS of similar posts, many even worse in their disdain for our President.
Like it or not, that disdain continued on to the general election. There were people, conservatives, who were just NOT going to vote for Bush, period. Their reasons were outlined by those of them who participated on FR, time and time again.
Then came 9/11. And things changed, A LOT. You saw it here on FR. Even some of the worst critics of Pres. Bush here began to change their view of him.
And I think that this, too, was reflected in the enthusiasm for which conservative voters turned out last Tuesday in support of Pres. Bush's call to return the Senate to Republican hands.
That and (IMO) the new voting procedures implemented after the Florida debacle (which Dems hadn't yet figured out how to circumvent) turned this into a juggernaut for the GOP.
And for that reason, I think that Bush will win in 2004, because he will have his constitutency of loyal conservative as well as more moderate Republican voters, and likely some increasingly-disaffected "Reagan Democrats" who like the cut of Bush's jib.
Remember that not all the voters who put the GOP into power were necessarily conservatives; some were simply sick of the Democrats and the way they had run the House bank, etc.
As far as the gun owners are concerned, btw, they had more effect in 2000 than at any other time previously. Even Bill Clinton grudgingly admitted it was so.
Some on the list weren't satisfied with being "force fed" a candidate and not given a chance of debates, choice, etc. It turned out well in the long run but it has cause me to watch, even more closely, what is going on in the Republican Party.
You may think this tactic is kosher but it is leaving the individual the decision to voting for the "lesser of two evils". Again, we got the same thing here in North Carolina with Elizabeth Dole. Will it turn out good? Well, we just have to wait and see won't we?
One of the funniest things about the phenomenon is that although many people changed, President Bush and Laura were pretty much the same people they have been for years. It was only then that many could finally understand the value of his steadiness and leadership, and appreciated his wife for the classy First Lady she is.
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