Mustn't gloat. Well, okay, gloat a little. It was hard last night not gloating watching the long, sad faces on MSNBC, which is my favorite network to watch when Democrats have a bad night. But as I said before, Republicans had better be careful not to think they're back in the promised land, despite the fact that the noisiest lefties seem determined to see Obama make a suicide march. Obama seems more ideologically rigid than Bill Clinton, but I guess we'll see. John Judis
and Thomas Byrne Edsal
l, both serious and thoughtful lefties, offer sober warnings this morning to their ideological soulmates. Will they pay attention?
Which brings me to my long-wave theory of American politics. I had noticed a while ago that ever since 1938, every 14 years there had been a GOP landslide at the polls (1952, 1966, 1980, 1994), which meant that the cycle was due to reoccur in 2008. Of course that didn't happen. Maybe the Massachusetts result, and the prospects for this November, show that the cycle is just slightly out of phase. Thought experiment: What might the result have been in 2008 if a Democratic president (Gore? Kerry?) had presided over the collapse of the housing bubble? Who knows. If there is anything to this theory, it is probably that since the New Deal a majority favors Democratic expansions of government, but looks to Republicans to temper excesses. (This is not my own original theory: Jonathan Rauch has been arguing something like this for a while.)
Separately, I got to see Gov. Schwarzenegger last night at the Hoover Institution. He was in good form, saying that all day long he had been asking Maria, "So--how are you feeling about Massachusetts today?" I asked him if he might go back to making movies after he left office, reminding him that Gov. Reagan had answered the same question from Johnny Carson in 1973 with: "Oh, no, Johnny, I'm much too old to take off all my clothes." The Governator laughed, noted that he still worked out every day, and therefore that "I'm not too old to take off all my clothes." Despite all his mistakes (I was careful not to introduce myself as the author of the NR cover story "Governor Girly Man
"), we'll miss his personality in the statehouse.
"...since the New Deal a majority favors Democratic expansions of government, but looks to Republicans to temper excesses."
That seems accurate, but that's still a grim assessment, it seems. It's generally the liberals' ball. Hope for liberal hubris to cause a turnover is the best that conservatives can do?
In two hundred-plus years, Americans politics has generally steered clear of the extremes. And the American public's moderation (and self-reliance or spiritedness) deserves credit for that, for keeping the government restrained (or close to the political center). But, on that note, is the American public really center-right, as conservatives say? Or -- considering the timespan you mention -- center-left?
I don't know that I buy cyclical models of electoral politics (such as Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.'s THE CYCLES OF AMERICAN HISTORY). I don't see that 1952 was so much of a landslide (the GOP picked up 22 House seats, but only 2 in the Senate), while the 14-year cycle leaves out 1946, which qualifies far more as a landslide (55 seats in the House, 12 in the Senate).
Rush quickly, today: "This one's for you, Mary Jo."
If the Republican Party assumes that everyone jumping off the Obama train is eager to join the GOP as it currently stands, it will squander a great opportunity. As a lifelong Republican I am almost as disgusted with my party as I am with the Democrats. PJ O'Rourke had Congress pegged when he called it "a parlaiment of whores", and until that changes, America is going to be in big trouble no matter who runs the show.