Friday, May 9, 2008

Gloomy Old Party

All of the fundamentals and metrics and optics (and any other overused, cliched political term you can think of) point to this being a great year to be a liberal. Any measure you can find shows the Republicans are going to get blown out of the water. Even Newt Gingrich sees the writing on the wall. Pruning Shears lays it out even more clearly:
Leading The Elephants To The Slaughter
Considering how much attention mass media has spent on electoral politics it has missed the elephant in the room (pardon the pun): The extreme peril of the Republican Party. Almost all coverage is now on the Democratic primary, and the least likely (and most dramatic) scenarios are getting the most focus. But here is what seems most likely: The candidates fight it out, a winner emerges in the next month or so and emotions peak. Everyone takes the summer off, spends some time at the beach with a good book, and returns at the end of August tanned, rested and ready to crank up an energetic election campaign. Meanwhile, each contested state gets two industrial strength Democratic voter registration machines rolling through, extends the Democratic monopoly of the news cycle and sharpens the campaigning skills of the eventual nominee.

For Republicans, that is the bad news. The worse news is that the math this time around is horrible, and the early indications are dismal (via). They have 29 House members retiring this year, and it didn’t get that high by accident. Losing as an incumbent has to be one of the worst events for a politician; it is a rejection and a humiliation - it is the voters saying “we tried you out and found you wanting.” It also usually comes with about a ten year setback. You don’t just bounce to some more prestigious office, you either take some time off or seek refuge in an appointed position. Then you slowly begin your rehabilitation. Many Republicans think now is a good time to take a powder, and by doing so they could be viable next time. It looks similarly bad (annoying trendy word for this election: optics) in the Senate. Republicans are defending 23 seats to the Democrats’ 12; even if the GOP was wildly popular it would simply have to cover more territory.

I’ve saved the worst for last. The preceding can be seen as nothing more than the vagaries of the horse race, the calendar and random chance. Fortunes wax and wane, and sometimes parties succeed just because. It is like the stock market, which moves sometimes in response to specific data and sometimes for reasons that are too complex to understand. (I will have unyielding admiration for the first newscaster who has the honesty and courage to say “Stocks closed higher today. God alone knows why.”) Republicans can talk their way out of a situation like that. It is their great misfortune that it is also accompanied by the total collapse of their principles.

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