I have to confess that I don’t find this argument convincing. I agree that a reputation for incompetence has hurt Republicans and the Bush Administration; and that may be enough substantially to harm Republican prospects in 2008. But almost everything hinges on how Iraq looks and the confidence voters have that a candidate can deal with it.
Of course, this assessment is subject to revision if there’s a substantial economic downturn associated with slowness in the real estate market.
The other shifts in public opinion that the authors identify--a modest movement back toward the welfare state and a modest uptick in secularism--don’t, I think, shift the political ground substantially, at least not on their own. I’m not convinced, for example, that young seculars will remain secular once they marry and have children. Of course, that won’t likely happen by 2008, but it’s also highly unlikely that Republicans will nominate someone as closely identified with religious conservatives as is GWB.
A concern with the fate of the least among us isn’t restricted to the political Left, and there continues to be room for debate on how best to proceed in these matters. There are certainly those in the Democratic Party who’d like to roll back (almost) everything Republicans have accomplished since the Reagan years, but I don’t think they command the kind of support necessary for such a radical change. And I think that any Democrat elected in 2008 will have her hands full with Iraq for quite some time. What’s more, I’m not convinced that Congressional Democrats will be able to muster the numbers and the political acumen to assemble a record compelling enough to confirm and solidify this modest shift in public opinion.
In sum, I think that the likeliest outcome in 2008 is a closely-fought victory for one or the other party (with the situation in Iraq determining the winner); I doubt that the Congressional split will be more than marginally different from what it is now (leaving Republicans with at least the power of obstruction). In other words, I’m no more than moderately pessimistic about 2008, and actually fairly confident that Democrats will not succeed in bringing about the kinds of long-term changes they desire.
Update: Here’s one basis for the authors’ argument.