Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Republicans Face Midterm Losses

E. J. Dionne starts out the year by discussing the importance of this year’s congressional elections:

Elections at midterm can be low-interest affairs or immensely important. This fall’s congressional elections will be a big show with large consequences, because 2006 is looking a lot like the political years 1958, 1966 and 1978, all of which heralded major political transformations.

The Democratic sweep in 1958 presaged the party’s strength in the Kennedy-Johnson years. Democratic dominance peaked in LBJ’s 1964 landslide. But just two years later, big Republican gains signaled problems in the Democratic coalition that the party struggles with to this day.

The 1978 elections during Jimmy Carter’s presidency marked the emergence of a powerful New Right that swept Ronald Reagan into office in 1980 and continues to be the dominant force in the Republican Party.

The 2006 elections will be a test of the audacious Karl Rove-George W. Bush plan to launch a long-term Republican Era. They foresee an alliance of corporate interests and religious conservatives, with the South as its home base. Business provides the money. Middle-class traditionalists furnish the troops.

Where I find the article to be of interest is when he almost mocks the conventional argument in articles on the decrease in Republican support that the Democrats lack a message:

It is customary in columns of this sort to say somewhere around now that the Democrats will need to come up with a plan, a message, a program, etc., etc. I’m all for such things. But in 1958, 1966 and 1978, the out party gained ground largely by exploiting the failures of the party in power and exacerbating the contradictions in its coalition. If the Democrats prosper in 2006, it will be because whatever program they come up with achieves those goals.

I suspect that Dionne realizes that when his colleagues make such claims they are parroting a right wing talking point which lacks substance. It was the Democrats who warned about the dangers of terrorism long before the Republicans were willing to take the threat seriously. It is the Democrats who have expressed ideas towards long term stability in the middle east, lowering the cost of health care, achieving energy independence, and reducing corruption in government.

If Democrats show gains in 2006 it will be due to convincing the voters that, to paraphrase an old Republican talking point, Republicans have become the problem, not the solution.


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