The Balance Of Power

Tim Cavanaugh of Reason is predicting that the GOP will retain control of Congress in 2007:

The problem for the dems is that they have nobody capable of doing what Gingrich did in 1994: defying Tip O’Neill’s law and conceptualizing 435 separate contests as a single national referendum. The only Democratic legislator who gets anybody’s body heat up to room temperature is Barack Obama, and he is a) not yet old enough to see an R-rated film without accompaniment and b) in the Senate, where revolutions never occur, and where any attempts at energizing the troops will be blocked by DINOs Clinton and Lieberman.

That leaves the House. Fortunately for the Dems, they don’t have as tall a task as Gingrich faced in ’94. Unfortunately, they also don’t have a Gingrich. They don’t even have grich, or gin or even a ngr. They have Nancy Pelosi, the most incompetent politician in the western hemisphere. There are certainly more than 16 vulnerable House seats around this great land of ours, and to the extent those contests get decided locally, there’s a chance the Democrats may get a turnover in spite of themselves. But to the extent that any change in the House majority depends on good organization, a strong message, or inspired leadership from above, the Democrats are sunk. Nancy Pelosi is good at one thing—nothing.

I’ve said it a thousand times before, and I’ll say it again: petulance is not policy. The Democrats live in a bubble where everyone shares their unyielding hatred of the President and the Republican Party. Except the real world doesn’t work that way. Even with Bush’s poll numbers in the low to mid 40s, the Democrats have to have some kind of agenda in order to win. The brilliance of Newt Gingrich is that he could channel the anti-establishment feeling in 1994 into a cohesive desire for change. The Democrats aren’t that politically savvy. The Democratic leadership could be called piss-poor, but that’s an insult to urine. Nancy Pelosi? Howard Dean? Hillary Clinton? Harry Reid? None of those people appeal to anyone outside the hard-core liberal base.

The fundamental problem with the Democratic Party is that the extremists are firmly in charge. Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg found that even among the kind of low-income voters that would normally be a strongly Democratic voting bloc, the poll numbers for the Democrats were abysmal. The Democrats were almost unformly viewed as hostile to family values and weak on national security. The Democrats simply can’t have a coherent policy on anything because of the massive internal divisions in the Democratic Party. Howard Dean is reportedly looking to stab Harry Reid in the back. The Democrats can’t embrace either surrender in Iraq (which the left wants) or continuing the fight (which moderates want) without pissing off the other side. So instead, they’ve chosen to carp from the sidelines while the Murtha wing of the party slowly pushes everyone farther and farther to the left. The NSA wiretapping brouhaha is the greatest gift to the GOP that they could ask for, as it once again refocuses attention to national security and makes the Democrats look weak.

Just when the Democrats try to run to the center, the radical left “netroots” that has metastasized throughout the Democratic Party screams bloody murder. The “netroots” are keeping the Democrats firmly planted in the minority by ensuring that a small cadre of hard-left activists can set the agenda for the party apparatus as a whole. That is simply not healthy for the Democratic Party, or the country for that matter.

The Republicans, much to their credit, realize how bad their situation is – the election of John Boehner as Majority Leader shows that the reformists understand that politics-as-usual just won’t work anymore. The biggest advantage that the GOP has is that their opposition is so hopelessly divided and incompetent that they can’t even kick the GOP when it’s down without tripping on their feet. Then again, that’s hardly something to crow about either.

The fact is that despite the increasing ideological polarization in this country, you can’t win by only appealing to your base. The party that is best able to reach out to the great middle will win. (Yes, it’s Anthony Downs again.) The Democrats are trying to keep in the good graces of the Kossacks and the radical “netroots.” The Republicans are trying to reach out to the fiscal conservative base by cutting spending.

The Republicans move towards fiscal discipline is more likely to appeal to Main Street USA than the Democrats shifting to the left. In the end, the Republicans are setting the right course and the Democrats are not. The Republicans have a leadership that’s looking at advancing a policy agenda and the Democrats have a leadership that can do little else than obstruct. The Republicans are setting the issue agenda and the Democrats are stuck in a permanent defensive position.

The Democrats are looking much better in the race for the nation’s governorships, which does help build a party in future Presidential elections, but doesn’t do much to influence national policy in the here and now.

While anything can and will change between now and Election Day, my guess is that Cavanaugh’s bet is a pretty safe one…

4 thoughts on “The Balance Of Power

  1. Of the “hard-core liberal” base you mention, only Pelosi is an actual liberal. Howard Dean, Hillary Clinton, and Harry Reid are all decidedly centrist….more conservative than the Rockefeller Republicans of yesteryear. As always, however, you think if you repeat something enough, it becomes true. And funny how in only three months, the “Murtha wing” of the party has transitioned from the wing Dick Cheney fawned over in the Vice-Presidential debate to the wing “pushing the party further to the left.” You guys are hysterical.

    At least once a week, often more, you find slightly different words to repeat this exact same message. Clearly, you’ve been inspired by your leader who has made an artform out of the “repetition makes things true” strategy. Unfortunately for you, public opinion polls on Presidential popularity to partisan preference continue to get more lopsided against you. Could it be that Jay Reding, as opposed to Bush critics, is the one living in a bubble of his delusion? Sounds about right for a guy who repeatedly insists against overwhelming evidence to the contrary that Bill Clinton’s popularity was due to, rather than in spite of, NAFTA and other wildly unpopular free trade initiatives.

  2. Jay, as recently as the last couple of weeks, you have made reference to Hillary’s “moderate” credentials, and she has been providing cover to Bush over Iraq for years now. Last year at this time, Harry Reid was the new “face of moderation” for the Democratic Senate with his Mormom background and pro-life position on abortion. His entire tenure in the Senate has been prefaced with “moderate Senator from Nevada”. Howard Dean had a decidedly centrist record as Governor of Vermont, and favors near-universal gun rights, capital punishment and a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution. John Murtha votes with his party barely 50% of the time. It is you guys who are redefining “moderate” to your convenience. As soon as someone voices any opposition to Bush administration orthodoxy, they lose their “moderate” credentials in your delusional world where only red-meat conservatives are the mainstream. Dean, Hillary, Reid and Murtha are all to the right of Rockefeller Republicans, masterful as you guys are portraying Democratic leadership as lurching leftward over the very time period that they’ve lurched rightward.

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