I’m old enough to remember 2008, when Barack Obama’s election and Democratic Congressional supermajorities supposedly signaled the dawn of a new and permanent liberal governance.
Heck, I’m old enough to remember 1992, when Bill Clinton’s victory supposedly passed the proverbial torch from a more conservative Greatest Generation of World War II veterans like George H.W. Bush to a new enduring governance by “pragmatic” liberals like Clinton.
And while I’m assuredly not old enough to remember conservative Barry Goldwater’s 1964 landslide loss to Lyndon Johnson, I have it on good authority from my mother that the future looked equally grim for conservatives then.
The upshot for anyone dejected by the latest electoral cycle, confirmed with each liberal electoral victory, is that their majorities almost invariably prove fleeting.
In Obama’s case, the reversal was so profound that when his presidency ended in 2016 even The Washington Post featured the headline “Barack Obama’s Presidency Has Been a Very Good Thing for Republicans.”
Consider that less than one year into Obama’s term, he triggered such an electoral backlash that Republican Scott Brown captured the late “Liberal Lion” Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat in deep-blue Massachusetts. Less than a year after that, Republicans captured the House of Representatives in the first midterm of Obama’s presidency.
As the 2016 Post story grudgingly acknowledged, liberal losses extended far further:
Republicans have their largest House majority since World War II, having retaken the majority in the 2010 election. They hold a four-seat majority in the Senate, having seized control of the world’s greatest deliberative body in the 2014 midterms. At the state level, Republicans have 31 governorships – almost two-thirds of all the governors’ mansions in the country. Republicans are even more dominant at the state legislative level; the GOP holds total control over 30 of the 50 states’ legislatures and has partial control in another eight states – meaning that more than three-quarters of the country’s state legislatures are controlled by the GOP.
Additionally, a Gallup survey in 2016 found that for the first time since it began measuring party affiliation across America, “red” states outnumbered “blue” states. Perhaps most devastatingly, Gallup noted that, “It also marks a dramatic shift since 2008, when Democratic strength nationally was at its greatest in recent decades.” In 2008, 35 states qualified as “solidly” or “leaning” Democratic by Gallup’s measure, with just 5 either solidly or leaning Republican and 10 deemed “competitive.” By the end of Obama’s tenure, however, 20 states were either solidly or leaning Republican, only 14 were solidly or leaning Democratic and 16 rated competitive.
Accordingly, Democrats plummeted under Obama from a 30-state lead to a 6-state deficit in terms of party affiliation. Some “permanent” liberal governance.
For particularly humorous perspective, recall that in 2009, Democratic strategist James Carville published a book presciently entitled “40 More Years: How the Democrats Will Rule the Next Generation.”
Clinton’s 1992 victory remains similarly instructive.
Despite the puzzling myth of his deep popularity, Clinton’s performance in his first two years proved so disastrous that Republicans won both houses of Congress for the first time since Dwight Eisenhower’s first term in 1954. It was only afterward that Clinton acknowledged that “the era of big government is over,” and conservative legislation like welfare reform halted the liberal advance to preserve a prosperous 1990s that we now recall for the final three-quarters of his tenure.
So like Obama, Clinton didn’t even enjoy a liberal stranglehold beyond his first midterm. In contrast, it’s worth noting, the supposedly disastrous George W. Bush became the first president to gain Congressional seats in his first midterm since the 1920s, so losses of the magnitude of Clinton or Obama aren’t inevitable.
As for the Goldwater/Johnson landslide of 1964, the longshot California candidacy of actor Ronald Reagan captured California two short years later, and Republicans won 5 of the next 6 presidential elections.
In comparison, Democrats’ electoral margin this year is almost nonexistent. The Senate will be split 50-50, meaning that Vice President Kamala Harris will be so busy breaking tie votes that the American public will be spared her ear-splitting cackle in fawning media interviews. Meanwhile, Republicans actually gained at the state level, and Nancy Pelosi’s House margin was tightened to the narrowest level since the 1940s.
So let’s keep this election cycle in proper perspective. Even comfortable majorities for Presidents Johnson, Clinton and Obama proved evanescent in 1964, 1992 and 2008, respectively. By that measure, liberals’ comparatively microscopic margins today don’t look promising at all.
Reprinted with Permission from - Center For Individual Freedom by - Timothy E. Lee