As this is written, we do not know the outcome of Tuesday's elections -- and may not for some days, due to recounts and court challenges. Nevertheless, we can safely predict certain things will occur on Wednesday.
First, if Democrats don't at least retake the House, many pundits will say that the whole party might as well close up shop. With such an incredibly favorable political environment, they will say, Democrats will never be in a stronger position to regain control. Therefore, failure to do so must mean that the Republican advantage is so strong in terms of money, organization and gerrymandering that Democrats could be locked out of control for perhaps decades to come.
Second, anything less than a blowout victory of, say, 40 seats in the House and six in the Senate for the Democrats will be viewed as a de facto victory by Republicans. If Democrats only get the 15 seats they need for control of the House and don't get the Senate, Republicans will portray this as a massive defeat, since they should have done so much better given their advantages.
Third, the "Blue Dog" Democrats -- moderates and conservatives from red states -- will suddenly find themselves to be the most popular guys in town. There were 37 of them in the last Congress and there probably will be more in the new one. Therefore, the Blue Dogs will hold the balance of power. They can all expect many invitations to the White House over the next two years.
Fourth, there will be much talk about Republicans raiding the Democratic side for votes from members in red states and possibly putting together a conservative coalition that could effectively run the House despite Democratic control, as was the case in the 1950s. Expect Republicans to shine the glare of publicity on Nancy Pelosi and make her a foil the same way Democrats used Newt Gingrich. As representative of possibly the most left-leaning district in America, it is inevitable that she is going to say and do things that are going to make every red state Democrat cringe.
Fifth, Republicans will repeatedly proclaim that they still control the White House and therefore the national agenda. The experience of Republican control of Congress during the last six years of the Clinton administration shows that it is a poor substitute for having the presidency. And Republicans have lots of experience controlling the White House while Democrats had Congress. Presidents like Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan had little difficulty pursuing their agendas despite Democratic control of one or both houses of Congress during their administrations.
Bruce Bartlett is a former senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis of Dallas, Texas. Bartlett is a prolific author, having published over 900 articles in national publications, and prominent magazines and published four books, including Reaganomics: Supply-Side Economics in Action.
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