Dueling Analogies For 2010

Many pundits have suggested that the 2010 elections may see a repeat of the pattern of the 1994 midterms: a first-term Democratic president, wounded by intraparty squabbling over a controversial health care proposal, loses big in Congress in what is seen as a “referendum” on liberal overreach. Mike Munger, on the other hand, suggests that we may want to look back 30 years further and consider a very different scenario:

Looking back from 2014, it will be clear that the anger and the Tea Parties were the first sign of something bigger, something much deeper. But of what? My crystal ball reveals that one of two things will happen. First, the anger and celebration of conservative values may well be focused and directed by the Republican Party, reprising the Republican electoral success of the 1994 midterms. Alternatively, the Republican Party will be torn apart trying to deal with its own internal contradictions, as in the disastrous but portentous 1964 election.

Goldwater for PresidentAll we know at this point is that the villagers have taken up their pitchforks and torches, and are marching up the hill. But it’s not clear whether the 2010 elections will burn the castle of the Al Franken monster in Congress, or if Palin and the Tea Party will simply go RINO hunting. …

In 1964, the right wing seized control of the Republican National Convention in the “Cow Palace” in San Francisco. They nominated Barry Goldwater, a “true” conservative who represented fundamental values of the right, and had no prospect whatsoever of winning the Presidency. Well, it might just be happening again. Remember, Ron Paul and the “Liberty Republicans” of 2007 and 2008 were not primarily running against Democrats. They were trying to take over the Republican Party, from the inside.

I’m not sure I would go as far as Munger. The lack of a presidential nomination contest will make it hard for the “RINO hunters” to organize behind a single leader who’s not a beltway insider already, and there really isn’t as much internal consensus among Tea Party supporters as their wannabe ringleaders like Palin would like to think: some are Ron Paul-esque paleolibertarians, some are centrist deficit hawks, many are social conservatives, a bunch have no well-defined ideology beyond a broad-based rage against liberals, self-styled “progressives,” and Washington, and a few are downright crazy. But nonetheless the potential is real.

The real question is whether the Tea Partiers and their allies will decide again, as they did in upstate New York last month, that they’d rather send Democrats to Congress who will support Barack Obama’s agenda 90% of the time instead of “RINOs” who support it less than 20% of the time. And they probably should remember that Republicans were able to force a Democratic president’s agenda much closer to the center with a more ideologically-diverse party that had a lot more “RINOs” from the northeast in the 1990s.

FILED UNDER: 2010 Election, Congress, The Presidency, , , , , , , , , , ,
Chris Lawrence
About Chris Lawrence
Chris teaches political science at Middle Georgia State University in Macon, Georgia. He has a Ph.D. in political science (with concentrations in American politics and political methodology) from the University of Mississippi. He began writing for OTB in June 2006. Follow him on Twitter @lordsutch.


  1. In regards to your question, clearly the Erick Ericksons/Club for Growths of the world want to replicate the NY experience, at least if their response to the Parker Griffith’s party switch is any indication.

    On a more analytical note, it strikes me that the structural conditions of 1994 (i.e., a conservative South that had yet to make the logical shift to the GOP) simply do not exist for that analogy to hold.

    I do expect more GOP seats, but have a hard time seeing a take-over.

  2. sam says:

    clearly the Erick Ericksons/Club for Growths of the world want to replicate the NY experience

    Sounds about right to me. I mean, if Lindsey Graham isn’t conservative enough…

    And they probably should remember that Republicans were able to force a Democratic president’s agenda much closer to the center with a more ideologically-diverse party that had a lot more “RINOs” from the northeast in the 1990s

    Somehow I get the feeling their memories don’t stretch that far into the past–they seem to go no farther back than September 3, 2008.

  3. Our Paul says:

    Allow me to break into this thread to wish Dr. James Joiner a super Holiday with the usual all the best etc… There is little other than good health one can wish for a man who has a beautiful and smart wife, a baby daughter who is just starting to walk, and a one and half inch T-Bone sizzling on the grill.

    The sole exception in this spirit of peace and good cheer in his Universe remains the odious and heinous Dallas Cowboys who stand in the way of the magnificent Men in Blue achieving a playoff berth.

    Similar wishes to his associate blogegrs Dave Schuler, Alex Knapp and Steve Verdon. Together with Dr. Joiner, they have tickled the brain cells and expanded my Universe.

    I would like to share these greetings and sentiment with the all correspondents to this blog. I admire and at times stand in awe as they with bounty of grace and bonhomous attempt to correct some of Dr. Joiner or one of his Associates blog posting. The screaming, skewering, and blood letting that on occasion may follow between correspondents warms this warrior’s soul — the gladiator gene still lives.

    Cross posted to all of today’s threads.

  4. It doesn’t depend on the GOP or the Tea Partiers. It all depends on the unemployment number and the right track/wrong track number. The GOP is essentially irrelevant — they are a regional party and they’ll no doubt flush out the last few southern Democrats. But it’s the independent voters who will decide the broader election.

    Granted the GOP can make their own lives more difficult — in fact, they’re kind of geniuses at that — but the GOP and its voters can’t really hurt Democrats. Only indies and under-motivated Dems make that happen.

    If unemployment has dropped two points by November and we’re getting a spate of “we’re back, baby!” stories, the fantasy of a GOP resurrection doesn’t happen.

  5. Jim says:


    Lets add another level of calculus on this – it seems that progressives have begun turning on each other. Witness the recent attacks on Leiberman and their constant calls to primary anyone who is not a true liberal. When you combine that with some of the votes that the Democrats has forced its legislators to take (cap and trade, health care, etc), 2010 is going to be very interesting. It is possible that both parties will respond by narrowing its tent to ensure RINOS and DINOs are excluded. Interesting times.

  6. Interestingly, unemployment may not be the factor that the conventional wisdom would dictate: click.

  7. ron johnston says:

    Careful Chris, Once socialized medicine is in full compliance, you may want to start to rethink that next burger and curly fries you stuff in your fat face resulting in your double chin??, and the subsequent future Arterial sclerosis / heart attack scenario that you are clearly destined for…… Hopefully you won’t be cursed with a compound cancer or some other ailment that would simply be too expensive to cover treatment for under you “mandated” health plan….After all the insurance company’s/government have caps in place to manage cost and ensure everyone is covered. So although you may die??, Rest assured many other will have some health coverage and you’ll feel better about yourself knowing that you didn’t suck too much out of the “health care system” so that others may have some coverage.

    Then again maybe by the time you do need treatment you’ll have made the right connections to insure that you’d get the same medical care that a congressmen/senator would receive. If you were lucky????, something that would be more effective than free government pain killers that would make your hmmmmmm, last days more comfortable…

    By the way on a side note I like the blog on this web page., It’s got all the bells and whistles, even egghead idiots that never really learned to spell can blog without the stigma of looking stupid……..

  8. superdestroyer says:

    First, the leadership in the Republican Party is so incompetent, that they idea of major victories for the Republicans is laughable. The Bush Family has wanted to stomp on any up and coming Republicans for over two decades and the result is a party lead by such incompetent as Micheal Steele and Sen. McConnell.

    Second, the only way that the Republicans win more election is tow increase the Republicans share of the white voters. Does anyone really think that the percentage of the white middle classes in North Eastern States or West Coast states is really going to increase?

  9. rpkinmd says:

    Historically speaking no republican could have won the 1964 election. The media had anointed JFK with sainthood. On the other hand had JFK lived Goldwater may well have defeated him. Kennedy was in Texas because his presidency was in trouble in Texas and he needed Texas to win reelection. Not only was Kennedy not as popular before his death as he was after, he was barely elected the first time. On the other hand, Goldwater was one of the most sought after speakers in the early 1960s on college campuses and elsewhere.
    The real difference today is that there is not a Goldwater on the scene to true conservative to focus on as a candidate. One should read Conscience of a Conservative and see how libertarian Goldwater was and why he was so popular.

  10. spinnikerca says:

    It seems a bit counterintuitive to expect the 47% of the vote in upstate NY that went to the conservative candidate to change to mollify the 5% of the vote that went to the RINO.

    Those candidates who want to remain employed need to be more conservative.

    And I dispute that RINOs vote the conservative line all but 20%. 20% of BILLS is not 20% of impact. Those bills that most impact the people are the ones where the candidates will be most held responsible. Check out Rasmussen’s polling of the divide between main street and ‘the political class’. People are sick of funding special interests, and are sicker yet of funding the special interests of both sides at once in the name of ‘bipartisanship’.