December 29, 2006

Republican Realignment

Amongst the more perplexing moments during the period from 2001-5 when the Bush Presidency seemed to soar in American public opinion, born aloft by gusts of air from the Middle East and "activist judges", was the continued use of the idea of a Republican Realignment. Conservative Commentators like Fred Barnes argued that the Democrats would not be able to win again, they suggested that the United States would see a permanent Republican majority. The elections of 2006 might make one suggest the opposite- that the Democrats have been swept in to dominate again forever.

Rather what has happened, as this sane and sensible article from the New York Review of Books makes clear is that the small Republican majorities of the mid-90s and early 2000s in Congress have been replaced by small Democrat majorities. That the Republican gridlock on the Presidency that Barnes discerns was never much in the early 2000s, Bush won with just about half the votes in both 2000 and 2004. The circumstances having changed Republicans have lost a temporary advantage, temporarily. There is no permanent majority in American politics- just at present a permanent plurality. Indeed in a functioning democratic policy, you would expect given human frailty, the natural tendency to arrogance after long periods of power and furthermore the arrival of the corrupt and climbing into successful political parties that this would be true.


A. said...

Great post! The arrogance of the republican majorities came back to haunt them. For example, look at reapportionment. They thought they were solidifying a Republican majority but this assumed that their voters would remain loyal. The opposite happened. The effect of having so many polarized districts in a year where there were a lot of disaffected Republican voters, Iraq, Foley, etc., was that the Republican districts became very competitive while the democratic districts were way out of reach. Democrats got smart; they ran conservative candidates and won many republican districts. The question is how long can they maintain the balance? Will those districts switch back once the Republicans recover? It all depends on what type of issues the Democrats focus on. I think the Democrats will try to redefine themselves much like Blair did with Labor as the moderate to liberal representatives of the middle class. --Bill B

Gracchi said...

Good comment I have to say I agree with you. The wonder of American politics at the moment is its lack of predictability- everything is so close.