02 March 2010
The election of a Republican to the US Senate from Massachusetts is rightly being heralded as an indication of the turn of the political tide—I can't help observing that it's been eight years since the most recent Republican landslide (2002, for those of you educated in a public school) and that the previous one occurred eight years before then (1994)—but those of us who yearn for good government ought not to become so euphoric as those who term the vote a "revolution." The rapid reversal of Democratic fortunes is another of the wild oscillations between the major parties that we've seen over the past two decades, and it may not be the last. Anyway, the current economic improvement (which will probably end next year), in conjunction with the short memories of the voters, means that there may not be a landslide this fall.
Furthermore, although I'd like to see Republicans retake both chambers of the Congress, I don't want it to happen in the upcoming round of elections, which unlikely to happen anyway because of the 18-seat disparity in the Senate. Recall what happened in the 1990's. The best thing that could have happened was for Republicans to control the Senate, the House of Representatives, and the Oval Office simultaneously for at least four years. The second-best thing was that the Democrats would control all three for the same period, and inevitably discredit themselves through their inability or unwillingness to govern capably. The worst that could have happened is what did happen: Republicans gained a majority in each house of the Congress, and made improvements that included the only kind about which people ultimately care (viz., strengthening of the economy), but, because the average voter is unable to distinguish between something effected by the President and something that merely happens during his term in office, a Democrat usurped the credit. (The circumstances are somewhat different now; Obama is a stronger, though no better, leader than Clinton, whose very status as a political cipher facilitated the Republican legislative dynamism to which I referred in the previous sentence.)
Finally, it ought to be admitted that this is no occasion to go sing Yankee Doodle Dandy. If it's true that, to quote Sen. Scott Brown, "people aren't stupid" (I would say "benighted"), why did they elect Obama and so forth to begin with?