In this narrative, Democrats' big congressional majorities owe more to perceived Republican incompetence and to the $400 million that labor unions poured into Democratic campaigns than to any change in fundamental attitudes toward the balance between markets and government.
Narrative B does a better job than Narrative A of explaining the unpopularity of the Democrats' big-government programs and the unwillingness of many Democratic officeholders, especially those facing voters in 2010, to support them. It does a better job of explaining the shift in the balance of enthusiasm from 2008 to 2009.
It still may be possible for Democrats to jam through some of their health care proposals, and tax rates are scheduled to go up when the Bush tax cuts expire in 2010. The Democrats may be able to make basic policy changes because of accidental advantages. In the framework of Narrative B, government-directed health insurance and vastly enhanced union power would be reactions to George W. Bush's inept handling of Iraq before the surge and his hapless response to Hurricane Katrina.
Narrative B doesn't explain all current developments satisfactorily. Voters still have a lingering distaste for Republican politicians and give higher (or less low) ratings to the Democratic than the Republican Party. Republican policy proposals, while not nonexistent as the Democrats charge, have not caught the public's attention and may prove no more popular than the Democrats' health insurance and cap-and-trade proposals. And Democratic proposals may turn out to be more popular than they are today.
But overall Narrative B has done a better job so far of explaining 2009 than Narrative A. Which suggests that it's time that fans of Narrative A who don't like Narrative B to come up with Narrative C.
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