Thursday, December 18, 2003

A Glimmer of Hope?

Nick Confessore at Tapped takes a good look at Democratic prospects next year, via an op-ed in Newsday by Amy Sullivan and Jake Rosenfeld that basically says the idea of an enduring GOP majority is bullshit.

Conservative writers David Brooks and Fred Barnes have recently compared contemporary Republicans to New Deal Democrats, declaring a national conservative realignment complete. House Republicans are pushing to replace the image of Franklin D. Roosevelt on the dime with Ronald Reagan, who is viewed as the first leader of this realignment. And following President George W. Bush’s surprise Thanksgiving trip to Iraq, the capture of Saddam Hussein and the Medicare reform victory, even some very smart Democrats are starting to believe these arguments, bemoaning the inevitability of Republican control in the nation’s capital for decades to come.

It is a brilliant display of political trash-talking.

While these aren’t exactly rosy days for Democrats, the comparison of today’s Republican Party to the New Deal coalition is simply absurd. In the 1937-38 Congress, Democrats enjoyed more than a three-to-one advantage in the House of Representatives; today the GOP holds exactly 24 more seats than Democrats. Given the growing power of incumbency in Congress – experts maintain that around 400 of the 435 seats are now effectively “safe seats” – even doubling Republicans’ current advantage would take a pretty fantastic Democratic meltdown at the polls. Republicans currently have a three-seat margin in the Senate, a chamber they didn’t even control as recently as one year ago.

In the states, Democrats are steadily making up losses they suffered in gubernatorial elections during the 1990s, while the control of state legislatures is fairly evenly divided – 17 are controlled by Democrats, 21 by Republicans, and 11 are split between the two parties.

In other words, it could go either way. The Republicans have been acting like they have had a mandate since Newtie and the “Contract With America” (remember that?), when in reality they can barely hang on by their fingernails. As we say in the theatre, perception is everything. It is time to change that, and if we don’t we will have only ourselves to blame.