Monday, April 10, 2006

1994 In Reverse?

John Fund and the RCP guys think so. But they're going more off of emotion ("The conservative base is furious...") than substance. The conservative base's newest resident doomsayer and carpet-bombing "friendly"-firer, Quinn Hillyer, goes several orders of magnitude further today, saying that the GOP majority in both houses has basically been a fraud going clear back to 1994 and is finally no longer able to keep up the charade.

And yet other center-right commentators who actually know about the nuts and bolts and dynamics of electoral politics - Jay Cost and John Miller come to mind - consistently, and convincingly, argue that 2006 will be a status quo election that will leave the existing alignment intact.

As for me, I go back and forth between both camps depending on mood and the issue de jour and how closely I'm paying attention to any of it. Lately I haven't been able to follow or comment very much and consequently it has probably drained a lot of the passion that I might otherwise be feeling and splattering here, so at the moment I'm leaning toward finding Fund and McIntyre and Beven and Hillyer more than a little overwrought.

Which is not to say that I take great issue with most of what they have to say. Fund is not wrong at all to pronounce the collapse of deals on budget reform and extending the Bush tax cuts last week a disaster. One would think that with double-digit majorities in both houses, GOPers shouldn't have much difficulty ramming through legislation that is so evidently favorable to them and a wedge against the Democrats (and thus a deterrent to their trademark mindless obstructionism). Those are the expectations that election triumphs like 2004 raise, and if the majority doesn't deliver, particularly with a friendly face in the Oval Office, they really are without excuse.

Upon reflection, my reaction to it is, "So what else is new"? Check out my old archives from the late 1990s; after two or three installments you'll think Quinn Hillyer got his start here, or that the reason for my pathetic output of late is because I'm moonlighting over at AmSpecBlog under a preppy-ass psuedonym. I got so sick of Republican spinelessness, and bitching about it in a vacuum, that I lost interest in blogging (before it was called that) altogether, and drifted back into message boarding when the 2000 election cycle started up.

But let's narrow the focus to this particular Congress. My first problem with Republican legislators came not even a week after the '04 election when "Snarlin' Arlen" Specter wasn't passed over as Chairman of Senate Judiciary for somebody more reliable (or just reliable period). Then we had the infamous "Memo of Understanding" debacle whose one year anniversary is coming up next month. My reaction to that was positively sulfuric. Two months after that came Bill Frist's sellout on embryonic stem cell research, and if you want more reminders between then and now, click here because frankly to me they all tend to blur together into an amorphous blob of political cowardice and impenetrable obtuseness.

Enactment of the McCain-Kennedy illegal immigration surrender would have been the majority's de-crowning achievment, but fortunately Republicans are still opposed by Democrats, and Democrats never know when to quit and always overplay their hand, and precipitated the collapse of last week's phony-baloney plastic taco "compromise." I guess one out of three could have been a lot worse.

And that, of course, is the mitigating factor to the right-wing princes of darkness cited above. The two gaping differences between this year and twelve years ago are:

(1) In '94 Republicans didn't win because voters hated the Democrats, they won because they put forward a positive, saleable center-right agenda and used it to nationalize the mid-term elections. The Democrats do not and give no signs of fielding an equivalent center-left agenda, largely because they have no "center" and way too much "left."

(2) In '94 the nation was not at war with bloodthirsty Islamic fanatics trying to kill us by the millions (though they were at war with us), and rapidly gaining the ability to do so on that immense a scale. As self-spiting as the conservative base can be, I just cannot believe that Republican voters will stay home next November and let "Majority Leader" Reid and "Speaker" Pelosi hijack the war and hand "Osama" bin Laden and "President" Ahmedinejad and "Emir" Zarqawi an engraved surrender. Maybe that won't be enough to expand the GOP's advantage, but it seems to me at least sufficient to avert its wholesale evaporation.

I also take some solace from the fact that the cousin to the "2006 is 1994" conventional "wisdom" is that John McCain is the inevitable GOP presidential standard-bearer in 2008, a metaphorical picnic to which one could not lure ants with a tanker truck of chocolate syrup.

I'll readily acknowledge (because I've posted as such far too many times to deny it) that Hill Pachyderms deserve to be returned to wander the proverbial wilderness. But until somebody comes up with a way of beating something with nothing (the political perpetual motion machine that was going to carry John Kerry to the White House, if you'll all recall), Republican governance, however unmerited, will continue.

Until Hillary Clinton takes it away, of course. I wonder where the conventional "wisdom" will reside on that.

UPDATE: Rich Lowry has some suggestions for how the President can help (for a change...).

UPDATE 4/11: Jim Geraghty also chips in some desperately needed perspective.