How Long in the Wilderness?
Reflecting on Nancy Pelosi and the torture controversies, E.D. Kain makes the following prediction:
To me, Pelosi’s denial (and accusation against the CIA) lays bare a deeper truth about the Democrats. Without Obama they’d be nearly as big a mess as the Republicans. Most of them are complicit in the Bush torture program and the wars. The party is almost headless without Obama – led by the fickle and hardly inspiring Reid/Pelosi duo. After Obama, if conservatives learn anything over the next eight years – yes, I’m predicting it will be eight – unless the Democrats get some sort of order and discipline and more importantly, some grander vision, then I think the GOP should have no trouble at all coming in and cleaning up.
I have thought for a while that the Republicans will be out of power for a significant period of time, both because of the Bush administration’s failures, and because the current Republican attempts to rebuild (e.g. constant infighting, unconvincing narratives about the role of fiscal excesses in Bush’s unpopularity, rallying around Rush, and Michael Steele’s various embarrassments) seem woefully ill-suited to the current political environment. I still think E.D. overstates things considerably when he says that Republicans “should have no trouble at all coming in and cleaning up,” but the idea that Obama is a sui generis figure is worth entertaining. The gap in charisma between Obama and Nancy Pelosi or Henry Reid, for instance, is substantial, and Obama is significantly more popular than many of his policies. Will the Democrats still look as relatively desirable once Obama is no longer the spokesperson of the party? And will Obama’s popularity wane significantly as his Presidency progresses?
Frankly, I wouldn’t mind seeing the party that brought us torture, Iraq, opposition to immigration reform, and a significant share of the financial crisis stay in the political wilderness a while longer. Incompetence should have consequences. But I haven’t been particulalry impressed by the Democratic leadership either, and I have serious concerns about President Obama’s SCOTUS nominations (no matter how empathetic). It’s interesting that both parties seem fairly rudderless at the moment. The Democrats’ main advantages are that they have a gifted and charismatic communicator in Barack Obama, and that they did not initiate the Iraq War. Neither of those advantages will be particularly helpful in 2016, and perhaps not even in 2012. I still think the GOP is likely to remain out of power for quite some time; voters will not forget the failures of the Bush years overnight, and there are serious problems with the GOP’s infrastructure and message (electorally and from a Catholic perspective). Nevertheless, as E.D. notes above, the “fickle and hardly inspiring” Congressional Democratic leadership suggests a GOP revival may come sooner than expected. If so, I hope the revival does not involve torture, pre-emptive war, or end in a financial crisis.