The passage of the Republican Party's Medicare/Prescription drug bill -- and its support by the AARP -- is by far the most convincing evidence to date that the political center of gravity in Washington is shifting definitively to the GOP for the first time since the pre-FDR era. While the mood of the country as a whole has shifted back and forth between Republican and Democratic over the decades, the effective exercise of power (particularly domestic policy power) in Washington has been tenaciously held on to by the Democrats since they acquired it in the early 1930s. (The GOP sometimes passed a few major conservative items in the first year after an election, such as Reagan's tax cuts and Gingrich's Contract.) So complete was the FDR Democrats' acquisition of power in this city that it has until now withstood the erosive assaults of Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan and Gingrich. Their total possession of the federal government from 1932-1946 engendered and brought to maturity the Democratic Party's sense of a birthright to power.
The first cornerstone of their actual power was, of course, the presidencies of FDR and Truman from 1932-1952. Their second cornerstone was control of the House of Representatives (the purse strings of government) for 40 straight years (and 58 of the 62 years) prior to the Republican takeover in 1994. (They also controlled the Senate for almost as many of those years). The third cornerstone was their domination, both physical and spiritual, of the unofficial power sources of Washington: the great law firms, lobbyists, trade associations, publicists, news organs, federal bureaucracies and think tanks. The fourth cornerstone was, in fact, their sense of a birthright to power. Republican presidents, when they came to Washington, couldn't deny that birthright, and felt like self-conscious interlopers -- playing a perpetual away game against the hometown team.
Even when the first and second cornerstones (The White House and Congress) were taken away, the Democratic power edifice stood firmly on the real, but less visible, remaining ones. But slowly, the remaining cornerstones have begun to crumble as the Democrats have become more attenuated in time from the House of Representatives -- for 40 years their bulwark -- and are frozen out of the remaining government. The Republicans -- first Newt Gingrich, and now Tom Delay and Speaker Denny Hastert -- have been persistently prying the cold, almost dead, Democratic fingers off the law firms, lobbyists and trade associations. (They also have given and received succor from the new media of cable news, talk radio, the Internet and the now legions of conservative commentators).
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.