On ABC’s Good Morning America yesterday, the Democratic political strategist James Carville — in commenting on this devastating (for the Democrats) Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll — said that it is “absolutely possible” that the Democrats could lose control of Congress, and, if the election were held today, they almost certainly would. That is by now a commonplace belief.
Carville’s admission is quite a contrast to what he was saying just last year. “Today,” he proclaimed, “a Democratic majority is emerging, and it’s my hypothesis, one I share with a great many others, that this majority will guarantee the Democrats remain in power for the next 40 years.” Carville even wrote a book on the topic: 40 More Years: How the Democrats Will Rule the Next Generation.
Carville’s guarantee, at least at this hour, looks to have been quite a faulty one. Many Democrats were making extravagant claims in the aftermath of President Obama’s election, though few went so far as to guarantee a multigenerational rule in power. But, to be fair, Republicans are susceptible to similar intoxications. There is a tendency in politics, as in life, to take events that are clearly important and to ascribe to them unique, history-altering significance. That is rarely the case. And those moments in politics in which one party or one political philosophy is dominant can change, sometimes quickly. “This globe, and as far as we can see this Universe, is a theatre of vicissitudes,” John Adams wrote. That tends to be truer of politics than it is of most things.
Still, even with that caution in place, the declining fortunes of the Democrats since the inauguration of Mr. Obama is unusual. The midterm elections, by almost every metric, look like they will be shattering for the Democrats. And if they turn out to be so, the Obama presidency and modern liberalism will be badly damaged.
Beyond that, we don’t know what will emerge. I’m not inclined to make predictions much beyond this year, to say nothing of 40 years from now. Bill Clinton, after all, recovered quite well after the 1994 midterm elections and won reelection by a comfortable margin. Ronald Reagan looked vulnerable in the second year of his presidency and went on to defeat Walter Mondale in a landslide, carrying 49 states.
What we do know is that at this particular moment, President Obama and his party are back on their heels. They may well lose control of the House and potentially even the Senate. The GOP is in stronger shape than anyone could have imagined just a year ago. Republicans are winning the debate on the merits of most issues. And conservatism itself is on the ascendancy.
All of that is quite enough for me, for now.