Political Tides Turn

I had occasion to stumble on a post from the OTB archives, “Democrats Threaten to Filibuster Unnamed Court Nominee,” written on September 25, 2005.  What’s interesting in hindsight is how fundamentally the landscape has changed.  Not only is it Republicans now about to be in a position to try to avert a person they deem too ideological from getting on the Supreme Court but the general situation the two parties occupy have almost flipped.  Here’s part of my analysis:

The notion that the Democrats need to make a stand or risk losing their base is a recipe for continued minority status. Kevin Drum makes the case in a lengthy post, which I commend to my readers. He points out E. J. Dionne’s latest column which notes, “According to the network exit polls, 21 percent of the voters who cast ballots in 2004 called themselves liberal, 34 percent said they were conservative and 45 percent called themselves moderate.”

[…]

Now, unlike Kevin, I don’t want this to change. But the country needs two viable parties to maintain a healthy political system. Without constant fear of losing the next election, a party becomes lazy, if not corrupt. It happened to the Democrats not so long ago and there are too many signs that it’s happening to the GOP now.

For the Democrats to be a viable alternative, though, they need leaders who are more representative of the mainstream of their own party—much less the American electorate— than Howard Dean or Nancy Pelosi. Even rank and file Democrats think they’re shrill and unsteady.

Less than fourteen months later, the Democrats had re-taken both the House and the Senate.  Two years after that, the Republicans had lost the White House and genuinely seem to be a party in the wilderness.

The liberal/conservative/moderate numbers, however, haven’t changed much.  While I don’t see a lot of great Republican candidates on the horizon, there’s every reason to think that the current situation is anything but permanent.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. sam says:

    The liberal/conservative/moderate numbers, however, haven’t changed much. While I don’t see a lot of great Republican candidates on the horizon, there’s every reason to think that the current situation is anything but permanent.

    I agree, but the first thing that came to mind was the story of King Croesus at Delphi. He went to ask the oracle’s counsel on his plan to invade Greece. The oracle told him that if he went to war against Greece a great kingdom would be lost. He did and it was–his own.

  2. just me says:

    I think the internet and 24 hour news cycle of done a lot to make turn overs quicker in politics.

    I am not all that hopeful for 2010 as far as the GOP is concerned, but I do think the GOP will step in when the democrats screw up enough-which is likely going to be 2012ish IMO.

    My wish for the GOP isn’t that we boot all the moderates or boot all the social conservatives-but more than we boot all the old guys and start developing and supporting and promoting younger and fresher candidates.

  3. odograph says:

    The liberal/conservative/moderate numbers, however, haven’t changed much.

    Do you mean in the sense of self-identity, or in the sense of measured position?

    I personally found that I had the self-identity of a “conservative” long after I took up position with the moderates (and moderate-liberals on some issues).

  4. Without constant fear of losing the next election, a party becomes lazy, if not corrupt.

    So, um, how’s that working out for you?

  5. Tlaloc says:

    While I don’t see a lot of great Republican candidates on the horizon, there’s every reason to think that the current situation is anything but permanent.

    Not permanent, no. But the current Republican coalition really needs to change something somewhere. It is getting hammered by demographic changes. Let’s face it, the republican advantages 2000-2006 can pretty much all be laid at the feet of 9/11 and the subsequent backlash against “furriners.” Bush barely scraped a loss after 8 years of Clinton and the impeachment. Then someone dispelled the myth of american invulnerability. That led to an environment where anti-immigration, ridiculous spending on war machines, and foreign policy based on what’s most macho will resonate with voters.

    But all that time the demographic ratchet of less religion and more minorities has kept clicking and the GOP is getting squeezed hard. Barring another 9/11 event I don’t see them making a serious comeback until they manage some sort of realignment.

    That might be throwing the Tancredos under the bus and making a real play for the Latino vote. I think they could do that easier than throwing the Socons, who if nothing else, are still a very nice piggy bank for the RNC/NRCC/NRSC. Whatever it is though the GOP needs something to give, or they will go the way of the Whigs.

  6. Tlaloc says:

    The liberal/conservative/moderate numbers, however, haven’t changed much.

    Not a great measure since people consistently self identify as conservative without holding many or any conservative positions. In other words there is a disconnect between how common people use the word and how political junkies do.

    A better measure is party identification numbers and those have changed quite a lot. Dems are doing well, Independents are doing *really* well. Republican numbers are in the toilet, which is about what you’d expect given the demographic changes mentioned above. The question is whether the GOP will do something to bring in a good chunk of those independents before they rally around another party’s banner.

    My guess is that they will.

  7. just me says:

    It is getting hammered by demographic changes. Let’s face it, the republican advantages 2000-2006 can pretty much all be laid at the feet of 9/11 and the subsequent backlash against “furriners.”

    Not sure how 2000 wins were in response to 9/11. 2000 wins were mostly in response to Clinton, and the corruption issue. 1994 was mostly about the GOP having a game plan and running on it, but it was also in the wake of a democratic corruption scandal.

    2004 I think was definitely a response to 9/11, but it was also at during that win that talk of the permanent GOP majority came into play, and the talk of the democrats being dead party blah blah blah.

    The democrats won in 2006 because people were tired of war and corruption-the GOP didn’t do much better with regards to corruption-and people had grown tired of the war in the Iraq and in general the GOP.

    Now the tide has turned. The democrats are on top and are now talking about a permanent majority and the GOP dying.

    My guess is people will grow tired of the democrats at some point, they will grow tired of the corruption, the spending and whatever else, and look for ideas from the other party.

    I don’t think purging the party of one leg or the other is the answer. I do think purging the party of the good ol’ boys and the dead weight will help. The GOP needs to cultivate young and exciting candidates.

  8. rodney dill says:

    The “center” is self-correcting, leading for their to be roughly two equal “sides” over time. If the center has moved to the left, what has been the Republican party will redefine itself (not necessarily intentionally) to be more left than it currently has been.

  9. Our Paul says:

    The question that James Joyner keeps posing here, and in past blogs, can be boiled down to this: Is the election of Barak Obama transformational? In perhaps less threatening terms: Is the current political realignment long term (more than one election cycle) or short term, as the sage of the American Enterprise Institute claims?

    Three statistical points argue in favor of long term political realignment: The drop in the actual number of Registered Republicans, the youth(under 30 years of age) vote for Obama, and the gradual bleeding of the educated class from the Republican ranks to those of the “Independents” and Democratic party. You cannot contemplate a healthy future for a political party if it cannot attract the young, and is losing support from the educated class.

    Other correspondents(see Tlaloc | May 5, 2009 | 08:14 pm) have commented on our hosts closing statement, to wit:

    The liberal/conservative/moderate numbers, however, haven’t changed much. While I don’t see a lot of great Republican candidates on the horizon, there’s every reason to think that the current situation is anything but permanent. (My italics, OP)

    Of course, if one takes a span of lets say, twenty to fifty years, it will not be permanent. But, if we say it lasts 2 Presidential cycles (12 to 16 years) and Universal Health Care with reasonable controls on the rapacious money makers within the system comes to pass, we can say it is transformative. If the culture shifts from today’s acceptance that the managerial class deserves all the perks, stock options, and salary it can extract from the system, to one where the worker is prized for his labor, then the Obama Administration will be transformational.

    To understand how close we are to a transformational epoch, I will first point to just me (May 5, 2009 | 05:12 pm) who voices the common theme (hope?) that the “GOP will step in when the democrats screw up enough-which is likely going to be 2012ish IMO.” And next, from Red State we have this:

    In short, the current situation calls for the party to once again – as it did in 1980 and 1994 – re-emphasize spending discipline, lower taxes and less intrusive government.

    Less intrusive government??? Good grief, as if the collapse our (and the worlds) financial system was a function of too much regulation.

  10. Good grief, as if the collapse our (and the worlds) financial system was a function of too much regulation.

    Too much regulation? No, too much corruption, too much rent seeking, too many bad decisions by people who got in over their heads. Say, how many Republicans served on the boards of Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac? But no worries, The Chosen One will put an end to all that. Well, after he takes care of ACORN and the UAW.

    But seriously, I don’t take anyone too seriously who rails against the rapacious money makers in an argument to argue for government control of health care. Freedom is so overrated, especially when there are people with pure hearts who just want the best for us.

  11. just me says:

    But, if we say it lasts 2 Presidential cycles (12 to 16 years) and Universal Health Care with reasonable controls on the rapacious money makers within the system comes to pass, we can say it is transformative.

    I bet it doesn’t last more than 8. I think Obama and the democrats have 4 years to deliver and then they will start losing.

    I think two or really even three huge things affect politics now. The 24 hour news cycle, the internet, and the impatience of the American people. They want their cake and they want it now.

  12. Tlaloc says:

    Not sure how 2000 wins were in response to 9/11. 2000 wins were mostly in response to Clinton, and the corruption issue.

    You should have read the next sentence then. In 2000 the GOP didn’t do very well at all given the circumstances. After 8 years of Clinton Bush barely scrapped a loss, saved only by the “judicial activism” of the SCOTUS (oh, SNAP!).