The opposition party getting swept into power on a wave of voter remorse during the first midterm of a new presidential administration is hardly a novel occurrence. It actually happens like clockwork, like a regular counter-trend within the structural shifts of political alignments.
- 1946 -- Truman administration: The Republicans achieve their first majority since the New Deal.
- 1954 -- Eisenhower: Democrats gained 18 seats and recaptured the House.
- 1970 -- Nixon: Two years before Nixon’s famous re-election landslide, the Democrats increase their hold on the House by 12.
- 1982 -- Reagan: With the economy in recession, the Democrats take 26 House seats.
- 1994 -- Clinton: the Republicans re-take the House in what would later be called a “revolution.”
(The 2002 midterm is the exception that proves the rule, as George W. Bush’s Republican Party increased its power in Washington, though only slightly (three seats); it appears that in that year, 9/11 Mania trumped the Midterm Curse.)
No matter how bad it looked for the GOP after Obama’s ascendancy, a rebound in 2010 could have been safely predicted. And history does not suggest that a victory in November will guarantee the Republicans anything in 2012.
It’s worth remembering this while reading hysteric liberal commentators speak of the new “paranoid politics” of the Tea Parties -- a restless, brooding, resentful White middle-class “backlash” that apparently threatens democracy. My good friend and colleague Peter Brimelow seems to agree with said hysteric liberal commentators -- with the evaluation reversed, of course. In his latest blog, “The White Giant is Stirring, ” Peter suggests that the White middle class is fed up and ready to remake the political system in its image.
It now looks like the Tea Partiers, with their very conscious contempt for the GOP leadership, are emerging as a sort of Third Party within the Second Party.
This is an interesting formulation. Though even if Karl Rove doesn’t like many of the Tea Party candidates -- Christine O’Donnell most notably -- it is the GOP, and only the GOP, that is directly benefiting from the Tea Party movement.
And in my view, the Tea Partiers aren’t so much remaking the GOP as promoting the Republicans’ farm team and various other conservative-movement backbenchers -- politicians who never thought they’d get a chance in The Show but are now pinch hitting as “anti-Establishment” populists.
As Peter himself admits, these Tea Party candidates have, conspicuously, avoided talking about immigration and the National Question. Moreover, their putative “radical” lines about abolishing the Department of Education and “getting government off the people’s back” amount to the same twaddle conservatives have been mouthing for the past 45 years. Why, exactly, should we to believe that they really mean it this time -- especially since they are in a far worse position to act on their supposed principles than, say, five years ago when the Party had total legislative power in Washington?
And in some ways, the situation is even worse. Christine O’Donnell of Delaware -- whom Karl Rove is correct to label an embarrassing oddball -- and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire are yet two more Sarah Palin-endorsed women -- two more in a series of “Pink Elephants” and “Mama Grizzlies” who are equally annoying, uppity, hokey, and bossy. The “White Giant” Peter applauds is blindly and mindlessly supporting Gov. Youbetcha as she enacts her own Title 9 project within the Republican Party.
Palin’s endorsement of O’Donnell was truly over the top, as the two women bear an uncanny resemblance to one another.
So what of the slumbering, stirring White Giant? Things will get worse, much worse, for him in the coming years, and he will, no doubt, get angrier and angrier as he watches his world fade away. But as long as the mass media circumscribe the White Giant’s political imagination, he’ll continue to sing hymns to “Doctor King” at Glenn Beck rallies and loyally vote Republican as a form of social protest.