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Politics & The Current Discontents: November And Beyond

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

It is becoming a commonplace in political circles to suggest that 2010 is a Republican year and that the only question is not whether there will be a GOP landslide in November, but if that landslide will be so complete as to actually unseat the Democrats in one or both chambers of Congress. Dick Morris, Michael Barone, and Larry Sabato seem sure that this is the case, and while others are more restrained in their predictions, the consensus opinion is that the Republicans will be popping champagne corks on November 2nd. The Democrats, naturally, contest such a likelihood, but seem resigned to the fact that they will lose, and lose big, in six weeks. Still, a GOP landslide is not a sure thing in the upcoming election and even if the Republicans experience of scenarios in November the dynamics of national politics will change only marginally. A Republican sweep will lead to partisan gridlock and might have the perverse effect of guaranteeing the re-election of President Barack Obama in 2012. Yes, you are reading this correctly!

There are a number of reasons why the Republican leadership should not count their chickens before the have hatched. In the first place, the Democrats and their allies in the prestige media will fight madly to keep what they have. We can see the class warfare card coming into play over the renewal or expiration of the Bush tax cuts, and the left wing has been lobbing the “racism” bomb at any figure who dares to criticize the anointed one since 2008. In addition, habitual voting patterns generally re-emerge once voters go to the polls. Many who are considering voting Republican as a protest against drunken-sailor spending and the gallop toward socialism will reluctantly fall back to their Democratic roots come election time.

Just as we can count on Democrats to fight to keep what they have, we can count on Republicans to fumble the ball, and quite possibly, to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. The Party’s propensity toward imbecilities manifested itself again last week as Republican political consultants sternly lectured GOP primary voters about choosing the “wrong” candidates to carry the Party standard in Nevada, Kentucky, Alaska, and Delaware. There seems to be no limit to the self-destructive nature of the modern Republican Party. Perhaps it is time for the Republican National Committee chairman, the clueless Michael Steele, to step in and attempt to quell this internecine warfare.

Even as the storm clouds gather on the horizon, however, the consensus holds that 2010 is a Republican year. Should the GOP win this time what will happen? The 1994 example might provide a historical precedent. A huge Republican victory, one in which they capture both the Senate and the House of Representatives, will imbue the Party with a temporary triumphalist air, but this will fade as the political realities dawn. The GOP will certainly lack the numbers to overturn Presidential vetoes and the country is most likely stuck with Obamacare for the near future. In fact, the nation is likely to once again experience partisan gridlock of the 1996-2006 variety, in which neither Party is strong enough to impose its will on the other Party, nor its signature on the nation. While it is true that such a development would be infinitely preferable to what we’ve experienced the past four years, this hardly offers any inspiration for the future. Moreover, the country could not undo the damage wrought by the Democrats in terms of trillion dollar deficits, autocratic government, and 1970s style stagflation.

The 1994 parallel offers one tantalizing prospect, of which the Republicans should beware. A GOP victory in the upcoming electoral tilt could, quite possibly, ensure the re-election of President Obama in 2012. If the Republicans issue the Democrats a sound thrashing in November they might send an overdue wake-up call to President Obama, who might then abandon (or appear to abandon) his radical agenda, just as Bill Clinton did after the 1994 landslide. Obama might adopt popular and successful GOP policy options, just as Clinton did in the mid-nineties. Obama will then position himself to claim credit for an improving economy, will argue that his bridge-building to Islam, and not the troop surge, lead to victory in Iraq and Afghanistan, and will sit on the sidelines as certain social issues lose a bit of their punch. Voters will remember Obama as the supposedly moderate-liberal of 2008 who read well off of a teleprompter and seemed like a pleasant enough chap when he schmoozed with Oprah Winfrey. If the parallel holds he will then proceed to handily dispatch his GOP challenger in the general election.

Granted, historical parallels are never precise, 2010 is not 1994, and Barack Obama is not Bill Clinton. Obama is certainly more of a left-wing ideologue than Clinton, who stood for nothing but self-aggrandizement. Obama is also noticeably petulant, takes criticism personally, and tends toward rigidity and dogmatism when convinced he is right, which is nearly always. Yet Obama, like Bill Clinton, is worried about his historical legacy. Despite his recent blather stating that he’d rather be a great one-term President than a mediocre two-term executive, Obama sees a re-election victory as the ultimate validation, just as every President does. He is unlikely to sacrifice his future and his historical reputation, and take his Party over the cliff in order to institute some minor liberal-socialist preposterosity. It is remarkable, but nonetheless true: Much as the GOP victory in 1994 guaranteed President Clinton’s re-election in 1996, a Republican victory in 2010 might ensure Barack Obama’s re-election in 2012. This should offer a cautionary note to all conservatives: Be careful what you wish for!

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