John Judis is a man of the Left, but he is an honest man of the Left. After the election of Obama he predicted an emerging Democrat majority. In a first rate piece of analysis in The National Journal, here is what he thinks now:
After the 2008 election, I thought Obama could create an enduring Democratic majority by responding aggressively to the Great Recession in the same way that Franklin Roosevelt had responded in 1933 to the Great Depression. Obama, I believed, would finally bury the Reagan Republican majority of 1980 and inaugurate a new period of Democratic domination.
In retrospect, that analogy was clearly flawed. Roosevelt took power after four years of the Great Depression, with Republicans and business thoroughly discredited, and with the public (who lacked any safety net) ready to try virtually anything to revive the economy. Obama’s situation was very different. Business was still powerful enough to threaten him if he went too far in trying to tame it. Much of the middle class and working class were still employed, and they saw Obama’s stimulus program—which was utterly necessary to stem the Great Recession—as an expansion of government at their expense.
In the wake of the dramatic gains Republicans have made during Obama’s presidency, I now read the history of the last 80 years much differently. The period of New Deal Democratic ascendancy from 1933 to about 1968 may well prove to have been what historians Jefferson Cowie and Nick Salvatore have called the “long exception” in American politics. It was a period when Americans, panicked about the Depression, put on hold their historic aversion to aggressive government economic intervention, when the middle and bottom of the American economic pyramid united against the top, and when labor unions could claim the loyalty of a third of American workers. That era suffered fatal fissures in 1968 and finally came to a close with Reagan’s landslide in 1980.
It now appears that, in some form, the Republican era which began in 1980 is still with us. Reagan Republicanism—rooted in the long-standing American distrust of government, but perhaps with its roughest theocratic and insurrectionary edges sanded off for a national audience—is still the default position of many of those Americans who regularly go to the polls. It can be effectively challenged when Republicans become identified with economic mismanagement or with military defeat. But after the memory of such disasters has faded, the GOP coalition has reemerged—surprisingly intact and ready for battle.
Go here to read the rest. Here is what I wrote after the 2010 election:
The Republican party had a very good election last night, and the Democrats had a very bad election. The Republicans took control of the House and have gained approximately 60 seats with around 13 still to be decided. The House will be more pro-life than at any time in our nation’s history since Roe v. Wade in 1973. In the Senate the Republicans have gained approximately 6 seats with around 3 still to be decided. The Republicans have gained at least seven governorships with a few to be decided, and at least 17 state legislative chambers have flipped to the GOP. By any standards it was a great night for the GOP, and a vote of no confidence in both the Obama administration and the Democrat Congress. It would be tempting to predict only triumph now for the Republicans and only doom for the Democrats in the future, but it is a temptation to be resisted.
After the 2008 elections many on the Left, giddy with victory, predicted that in future the Republican party would be only a rump party of the South, doomed to wander in the political wilderness for 40 years. Typical of this commentary was a piece written by frequent commenter Morning’s Minion:
For look at what the Republican party has become in recent years: a rump party of the south and the plains, mired in an anachronistic culture that has little resonance with the modern world and with the younger generation.
Of course this commentary betrayed a fundamental misunderstanding of American political history. In that history there are no final victories and no final defeats. The great issue in contention since the days of the Federalists and the Republicans, the role of government in the lives of a free people, has remained with us no matter what names the two parties call themselves. When a party dies, the Whig party for instance, a new party steps forward to carry on the fight. The parties themselves shift and change, but the large issues involved tend, at bottom, to remain the same. Kipling wrote long ago: