I write before the election has even been held. Wouldn't you know it? -- obliged to traffic in certainties while lacking Final Certainty.
Of the most varied certainties circulating right now, among the more arresting, is that the Republicans, once ensconced in power, are going to blow it.
This one, I admit, is of a piece with the certainty that crept into some minds after November 2008; to wit, Barack Obama, having sold himself as the pig in the proverbial poke, is going to skid on his own bacon grease. As he did.
I pass over that one for the moment in order to tackle the urgent question of whether the Republicans actually, truly, verily-verily (as the King James Version would have it) will blow it.
Given that everything is possible, including you-can-lose-200-pounds diets, the possibility cannot be gainsaid, but nonetheless, it seems unlikely.
The "progressives" we used to call liberals are salivating over a potential breakup between establishment Republicans and tea partiers. Is that likely? Possible -- that word again -- yes; likely, no. This year, the Republicans know on which side their bread is buttered. They know they would not be where they are had they not been invited to the tea party. Likewise, I think, the tea partiers know -- the majority do -- that they and the Republicans need each other to get anything done.
Dark hints by "progressives" that the tea parties may try to "close down" the government -- as did Newt Gingrich -- sound strained. The larger question will be how to proceed in terms of cutting the deficit: how many programs actually to reduce; how many to eliminate. There may be some friction in these matters between tea partiers and Republicans -- but disruptive friction would be too disruptive for a party with half a brain cell working.
There's at least an intellectual center in the party now, thanks to House members such as Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Eric Cantor of Virginia. This could diminish the pulling and tugging.
Will Social Security be "privatized"? Will Medicare be "gutted"? Of course not. It won't be tried. Not with Barack Obama waiting to veto such plans. A truly reformist Republican agenda isn't likely -- mind, I said "isn't likely," not won't-happen-in-a-blue-moon -- to emerge before the party gains at least the presidency. But plans can be drawn in the meantime and ideas vetted. The health care debacle shows the danger of pushing dense, unexplained proposals on which the public hasn't been briefed.
Expect the largest reform measures to keep until Republicans have not only the ideas but also the grassroots support for enacting them. If Republicans can just prevent the deficit from increasing in the next two years, that will be a victory of some dimensions. Cutting will have to begin: coupled, however, with initiatives to create jobs, such as reducing corporate taxes and loosening regulations: expedients that Democrats normally despise (and currently are paying for despising).
One just doesn't see the Republicans blowing this chance to roll back much of the bossy, we-know-best stuff they rightly detest in Obamanism; e.g., the federal mandate to buy health insurance. When you've been handed (as will likely prove the case this week) a golden gift you thought two years ago you'd never see, you use it for the purposes intended, while supporting choruses of voters sing along with zest.
Here's maybe the point to notice most of all: not, can Republicans avoid feuds and self-evisceration? The thing to notice is the beauty of democracy, when it functions -- and, oh, is it functioning now -- with smoothness and intensity. In democracy, the people get what they want, even if it takes a while. Two years ago, they wanted "change," without bothering to inquire very pointedly, change of what kind? The kind of change they seem to want now is of a more constructive kind: rooted in thinking about real-life consequences and outcomes, not just promises and high-toned speeches.
The agents of "change" blew it big time this time. They may not have figured the people would be watching and caring. But they were. Were they ever!