Come January, Republicans will control the Senate, and maybe sooner than that. And it looks like about a four-seat Republican gain in the House. In the Great Divide between liberals and conservatives, Democratic behavior has tipped the balance toward the Republicans.
And in this behaviorist hour make no mistake about that phrase, "Democratic behavior" - even "leftist behavior." How did the Democrats turn the electorate away from themselves? Let us count the ways:
(1) Since the Jeffords defection giving the Democrats control of the Senate, obstruction generally - gridlock.
(2) For instance, obstruction on tax cuts, obstruction on federal judges, obstruction on homeland security, obstruction on Social Security, obstruction on prescription drugs, initial obstruction on Iraq, obstruction to this moment on every budget bill except (because they didn't dare) defense.
(3) Manipulation of the process, not only of the legislative process (e.g., judges), but also.
(4) Manipulation of the political process (e.g., the widow's walk with Jean Carnahan in the Missouri Senate race two years ago and now, the Lautenberg ploy in New Jersey, and the Mondale maneuver in Minnesota), as well as.
(5) Manipulation and politicization of everything from registration on the Indian reservations to absentee-ballot counts to a prominent funeral (Sen. Paul Wellstone's).
Of course, the Republicans have been known to do the same sorts of things. But the Democrats do them better - politicizing everything, obstructing, manipulating, dredging up old-guy has-beens and turning funerals into unseemly rallies championing extremist ideology.
Liberals politicize 24/7; conservatives tend to leave their politics at the door - just as conservatives tend to gloat less. On neither the night of the astounding Republican victory nor the following day was President Bush out there taking credit for a victory that was heavily his. Though his spokesman did discuss the outcome, Bush was graciously off-stage, working to get things done, at last, after 18 months of do-nothing Democratic gridlock.
Two years ago George W. Bush went to Washington to accomplish some important things. Many liberals didn't like that; with Sen. Jim Jeffords' defection they set out to stymie much of what he sought to do under the deft frustrational abilities of Sen. Tom Daschle. Then came 9/11 and a heightened urgency for the approval of Bushian initiatives. Sometimes, crucially, the Democrats cooperated; too often they chose obstruction, manipulation, and - ultimately as always - politicization (even deploying the superannuated Bill Clinton, with notably little positive result, to key campaigns).
Tuesday marked a stunning Republican turnaround, a stellar Bush victory, and - yes - a loud public insistence for Washington to get on with the job begun two years ago.
Oh, and two years hence? Here's a prediction, ever risky in political realms: More outcomes similar to Tuesday's, highlighted by a presidential race (you read it here first) between Lieberman-McCain and, if not Bush-Cheney, then Bush-Condoleezza Rice.