Charlie Cook, of Cook Political Report fame, is very good at what he does, and when he says that the Democrats are looking at significant losses in next year’s midterm elections, it’s worth paying attention (via the Atlantic’s politics channel):
“….confirm anecdotal evidence, and our own view, that the situation this summer has slipped completely out of control for President Obama and Congressional Democrats. Today, The Cook Political Report’s Congressional election model, based on individual races, is pointing toward a net Democratic loss of between six and 12 seats, but our sense, factoring in macro-political dynamics is that this is far too low.”
My hunch is that it’s still far too early to make any judgments about regarding either party’s success or failure next year. There is a huge number of things which determine the outcome of any given election cycle, and many of those have yet to play out in full. At this stage in the game, predictions – or at least confident ones – are almost completely unfounded. That said, I can’t help but be terrified at the idea of significant Republican gains.
If there was any potential silver lining to the recent explosion of right-wing rage, or the shameless dishonesty on display from Republican leaders, or even the demagogic rantings of right-wing talk show hosts, it’s that it makes the GOP look insane. Politically, the argument goes, it doesn’t matter if Obama is as successful as he wants to be, since the public recognizes that alternative is orders of magnitude worst. Granted, that sounds very nice – and extremely comforting – but I’m not sure if it’s actually true. American politics is, if anything, cyclical. And there is a definite rhythm to election cycles. Broadly speaking, party shifts occur when the opposition party is organized enough to capitalize on a significant screw up by the party in power.
If health care reform fails, I guarantee that Republicans will make significant gains next year. And if Republicans make significant gains, we can look forward to a Republican Party even more unhinged from reality. In light of a substantial electoral victory, dialing up the crazy wouldn’t seem like a terrible idea, after all, that victory was due – in part – to the near-constant outrage of the previous year. And, for Republicans at least, it stands to reason that more outrage would prove to be more successful. A Republican win next year would probably convince a large swath of the party that they have nothing to gain from sensible opposition, and everything to win by pressing forth with alarm-ism, hysteria, and implicit threats of violence.