One little-noted aspect of the recent elections is that it restores American government to what most of our elites, particularly the political and intellectual class, considers to be the norm--rule by Democrats. Perhaps the best example of this idea is Peter Jennings’ remark after the 1994 elections that "The voters had a temper tantrum last week."
Most of the people who staff government agencies in Washington (and most government employees throughout the republic) are Democrats. Similarly, most of the people who work for national media organizations are Democrats. These people tend to have attended the same group of colleges and universities and read the same newspapers and books, and listen to the same radio. They are trained to think of themselves asour governing class. Now that the Democrats will be in charge of the House, Senate, and the Presidency, they should, in theory, think that the proper state of affairs has returned. The Republicans held Congress long enough, and have held the Presidency regularly enough for the past forty years, that some of that presumption has broken down.
The glaring exception might be Congress. This week’s news that the Democrats in Congress will repeal several of the reforms that Republicans made in Congress when they took over in 1994--notably term limits for committee chairmen--suggests that the situation President Obama faces will be complicated by the return of the old guard. Many of the major powers that be in the House particularly, but also in the Senate, first took office when those were Democratic fiefdoms. The Democrats controlled the House, virtually without interruption from 1933 to 1995. They controlled the Senate from 1933 to 1981. To them, the period of Republican control was an interregnum, not part of the normal state of affiars in a nation with a two-party system. Hence we should not be surprised if we see Congress trying to reassert power, and making life rather hard for President Obama. They will not be grateful for Obama’s victory, and hence defer to him, because all they now have is what, they think, is properly theirs.