Americans are not an extreme lot. When it comes to elections, we never follow the Ralph Naders or George McGoverns or Pat Buchanans. The country never swings too far in one direction without a subsequent swing in the opposite direction. Republicans Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft were followed by Democrat Woodrow Wilson. Democrat Woodrow Wilson was followed by Harding, Coolidge and Hoover. Those three Republicans were followed by Democrats FDR and Truman, who in turn were followed by Republican Eisenhower.
With our tendency toward moderation, it is no wonder that after six years of absolute Republican domination many Americans are thinking of pulling the Democratic lever. Democrats recognize that the natural swing of the political pendulum tends toward the party not in power. Their campaign has relied heavily on that pendulum swing, and they have campaigned on the basis of their opposition to Republicans, labeling Republicans extremists, "out of the mainstream."
There is only one problem: The political pendulum only operates if the center between the two parties is truly at the center of the political spectrum. If both political parties have shifted to the left, the Republican Party now occupies the political center. There is nowhere for the pendulum to swing.
In order for the political pendulum to work, there must be some common ground at the center. Wilson and Harding both believed in the essential morality of America, and both believed in the traditional morality of marriage, family and religion. So did Hoover and FDR. Arguments about the size of government were arguments about how best to bolster that traditional morality within the framework of a growing America.
The period of liberalism ushered in by LBJ, Nixon and Carter, however, pushed all of American politics to the left. The common ground was no longer between the parties; it resided within the Republican Party. The election of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush was not so much a swing of the pendulum as a national realization of that fact. That is why the fluke election of Bill Clinton (who has Ross Perot to thank for his presidency) prompted the Republican Revolution of 1994. The political center was not Bill Clinton, but the much-maligned Newt Gingrich.