As I count, I believe that I have attended the funeral of both the Republican and Democratic parties … at least twice each. And today, some are preparing to hold services for the Republicans again. If you love the Grand Old Party, I would not despair too much. It’s down, but it is a long way from out.
It was at least as bad for the GOP in 1964 when Barry Goldwater carried the Republicans right down the tube. Now, many look back at that election as the beginning, not the end, of the modern Republican Party which Ronald Reagan then built into a juggernaut.
As for the Democrats, remember the great victory of President George McGovern from which the party was never supposed to recover. And, again, 1994, Newt Gingrich wiped out scores of Democrats in the House – including one of my favorite Speakers – Tom Foley. In my state of Washington it was particularly bad. We went from 8 Democrats and one Republican in our delegation to seven to two the other way. (I had thoughtfully announced my retirement that year and so escaped just ahead of the lynch mob.)
In each of these instances most of the people who observe, kibitz and chatter about these things were ready to write off the embarrassed party. It was dying. It was doubtful it could last to the middle of next week. You hear it now: people saying the last rites over the GOP.
They’ll be back.
But how are they going to do it? If history is any guide, “they” won’t. The Republicans are really screwed up right now with about as many formulas for resurrection as there are factions to the party. I seriously doubt they will revive the party.
As with ’64 and ’94, when a party gets stuck in a fix as bad as this, it needs help to get out of it. The help comes, inevitably and ironically, from the other party.
Yep, the Dems will help the Repubs back to health. It’s only fair; the GOP did it for the Democrats after ’94.
It works this way. The big winner, by turns, is elated, eager to govern, impatient with opposition, arrogant in action, ruthless in execution and finally becomes so noxious to the public that the “losers” have a chance again. Besides, the time in political Siberia sobers the “down” party a bit, quells some of the in-fighting so it can rise again. The cycle continues.
A Republican friend of mine who is a student on the House watched with a mixture of horror and amusement as Newt Gingrich and Tom Delay led their party thru exactly that scenario. He said to me one day, “We Republicans are doing exactly the same thing your Democrats did, but it took you forty years. We’re gonna do it in ten.”
Now, watch carefully. Even this early, can’t you see, principally in the House, the tiny inklings of what will be the beginnings of the end for the Democrat’s majority? They won’t be in serious trouble right away. They are just sewing the early seeds of defeat: undue partisanship, concentration of power in leadership, already showing the precursors to arrogance and a touch of hubris. In time those seeds will germinate and the Grand Old Party will fall into favor again – almost in spite of itself.