There is a lot of the usual Democratic loose talk about Republicans finally being vanquished for all time and so let’s stage a celebration right this very minute. Seems to be a defining feature of American liberalism to assume victory before it is secure. However, that does not mean that things never change or that the other side is incapable of failure. And it certainly does not mean that the over arching themes of our politics never change.
Krugman nailed one the other day that I think could be a keeper:
Ever since Reagan, the Beltway has treated Republicans as the natural party of government. Sunday talk shows would feature a preponderance of Republicans even if Democrats held the White House and one or both houses of Congress. John McCain was featured on those shows so often you would think he won in 2008.
And there was a general presumption of Republican competence. It’s hard to believe now, but Bush was treated as a highly effective leader who knew what he was doing right up to Katrina, while Clinton — now viewed with such respect — was treated as a bungling interloper for much of his presidency. Even in the last few years there was a rush to canonize Paul Ryan as a superwonk, when it was quite obvious if you looked that politics aside, he was just incompetent at number-crunching.
But I think the last two years have finally killed that presumption. It wasn’t just that Romney lost — his shock, the obvious degree to which his campaign was deluded, was an eye-opener. And now the antics of the Boehner bumblers.
Suddenly the old Will Rogers line — I’m not a member of any organized political party, I’m a Democrat — has lost its sting; the upper hand is on the other foot. And that’s going to color narratives and shape campaigns for a long time.
From his lips …
Whatever happens with the current shutdown and various hostage negotiations, that fundamental definition of the Republicans as being the de facto competent party — the proverbial grown-ups — has probably finally been shattered. It’s hard to believe it could have lasted through that depraved spectacle of a presidential impeachment and the subsequent stolen election for the puerile bumbler Junior Bush, but it did. Throughout all of that, some outdated image of Democrats as the hippies who destroyed the 72 convention held fast, long after said hippies had traded their long hair for bald pates and three-piece suits.
If nothing else, that tired old framework may have finally been tossed on the garbage pile. It’s only about 25 years too late, but better late than never.