Pete, I concur with your sharp analysis — and the word of caution that nothing is certain in politics. One point you make is especially telling: “Obama is revivifying the GOP to an extent that few thought possible just a few months ago.”
Less than a year from the election, the same pundits who predicted a “permanent Democratic majority” now concede that 2010 looks dicey for the Democrats. In about a week, we will see two gubernatorial races in which one Republican is far ahead in a key swing-state and another is in a dead heat in a deep-Blue one. A spontaneous grassroots movement has generated marches, meetings, and hundreds of thousands of protesting Americans — and not the sort of professional protesters often hired by the Left. How did this happen?
The Republican Party didn’t re-invent itself, as some counseled. And it didn’t kick out social conservatives. It went into opposition and played the hand it was dealt. At the time the pundit hand-ringing fest was ongoing, I expressed some exasperation with the sterile argument about how to “remake” the Republican party. Then I argued that facts on the ground, individual personalities, and the natural tendency of incumbents to mess up would have more to say about the future of the party (and more generally, of the conservative movement) than any model for revitalization cooked up in a pundit’s cubicle or in a Washington think tank. Well, at least so far, that’s the way things have gone.
As you point out, this need not have been the case. The White House could have governed from the center and rejected Chicago-style partisanship. Then we might well be talking about a far different picture both of the Obama presidency and the fate of its opposition. One bruising round or two of defeats in 2009 and 2010 still might force a course correction that would establish Obama as the political colossus some imagined he would be. But that hasn’t happened yet, so the opposition party has gotten off the mat and is landing blows. We’ll see how the fight progresses.