Commentary Magazine


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RE: RE: Sometimes the Sky Really Is Falling

I certainly agree with Pete and Jennifer that things are looking really bleak for the Democrats right now, with the House majority in grave danger, the large Senate majority likely to become, at best, a very small Senate majority, many governorships likely to flip from D. to R. and many state legislatures likely to add members to Republican ranks, just in time for the decennial gerrymandering following the census.

There is nothing so fatal to success in a political campaign as the certainty of winning. President Truman was widely reviled (“To err is Truman”). The Democrats had fractured, with Henry Wallace walking out with the far left and Strom Thurmond walking out with the Dixicrats. Truman was political toast.

But Dewey, sublimely confident, talked in generalities and avoided controversial topics. Alice Roosevelt Longworth’s catty — and all too accurate — remark that he looked like “the groom on a wedding cake,” began to penetrate the national consciousness. Truman went after the “do-nothing 87th Congress” (which, in fact, had done a lot) and “gave ‘em hell.” He carried 28 states and took 303 electoral votes (to 189 for Dewey and 39 for Thurmond). And the Democrats took back both houses of Congress.

“When you’re ten points ahead, run like you’re ten points behind” is excellent political advice. So is having a coherent program for the future and giving the other side hell. At the moment, I only see the last as being part of the Republican battle plan.