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September 10, 2014

The Fan Saga Continues....

Sorry for going AWOL last week. The Blog Princess is in St. Louis for another week and is still having laptop issues involving a recalcitrant cooling fan. So blogging is going to be light until next week.

Whilst we are playing with our granddaughter's adorable toes, this excellent column by Michael Barone is worth a read:

America’s two great political parties are constantly transforming themselves, sometimes in small increments, sometimes in sudden lurches.

...But when the other party has held the White House for an extended period, the transformation process can be stormy and chaotic. Which is a pretty apt description of the Republican Party over the past few years. Its two living ex-presidents, the George Bushes, withdrew from active politics immediately after leaving the White House, and its two most recent nominees, John McCain and Mitt Romney, say they are not running for president again, although they do weigh in on issues. There is no obvious heir apparent and there are many politicians who may seek the 2016 presidential nomination. More than usual, the opposition party is up for grabs.

As the cartoon images of elephant and donkey suggest, our two parties are different kinds of animals. Republicans have generally been more cohesive, with a core made up of politicians and voters who see themselves, and are seen by others, as typical Americans — white Northern Protestants in the 19th century, married white Christians today. But those groups, by themselves, have never been a majority of the nation. The Democratic Party has been made up of disparate groups of people regarded, by themselves and others, as outsiders in some way — Southern whites and Catholic immigrants in the 19th century, blacks and gentry liberals today. Our electoral system motivates both to amass coalitions larger than 50 percent of voters. Democrats tend to do so by adding additional disparate groups. Republicans tend to do so by coming up with appeals that unite their base and erode Democrats’ support from others.

In the past 100 years there has been a certain rhythm, a familiar though not inevitable pattern, in coalition construction and deconstruction. A party’s nominee for president is elected. In his first years he advances a legislative agenda that all members of his party and, usually, some in the opposition party support. He is re-elected or, as in 1924 and 1964, the vice president who succeeds him is elected by a substantial margin. In the last century, the only years when previously elected presidents were defeated after one term were 1932, 1980 and 1992. Then, in the president’s second term, events turn sour, legislative initiatives are defeated, the opposition party coalesces and the president’s party splinters. Among members of his party, gratitude for past achievements dims, and frustration grows over roads not taken and goals not achieved. Disillusion accelerates as fears grow that the opposite party’s nominee will win the next election. The party in power splinters and either erupts openly or seethes silently with discontent. The party out of power grapples first with the task of selecting a new nominee and, perhaps more importantly, of settling on policy initiatives and priorities.

Back in 2009, we made some very similar observations:

Another meme popular among frustrated conservatives is that Bush is responsible for our defeat in 2008 and the resulting disarray of the Rethuglican party. Not to put too fine a point on it, but an objective examination of the historical record provides no evidence to support the notion that a third term of Republican leadership in the Oval Office was George Bush's to lose...

... (pre- and post-1950) any uninterrupted stretch where one party occupied the Oval Office for MORE than two terms is noted.

The salient observation? Prior to 1950, extended one-party rule was more the norm than the exception.

Since 1950, extended one-party rule has been the exception rather than the norm. In fact, it has happened only once.

But by all means, let us blame Bush for our defeat in 2008. It is always so much easier than looking at facts that inconveniently undermine what we'd like to believe, especially when this involves that rather startling notion that we live under a two party system in which - oddly enough - the party not in power tends to feel bitter, cheated, aggrieved, disaffected and angry.

...and the party in power tends to wear out its welcome if it's "lucky" enough to stay in the White House for two terms.

Posted by Cassandra at September 10, 2014 08:56 AM

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What better reason to withhold any recommendation of democracy than its appearance in both column A – breads, i.e., public and private subventions, and column B – circuses, i.e., political haruspicy, i.e., psephology. It actually pains me, the punditry, all over again, of the shortcomings, imperfections, failings, of Romney or candidate X for that matter, and not a word uttered of the utter corruption of the electorate, and elections, i.e., democracy. Monarchy! Monarchy!

Posted by: George Pal at September 10, 2014 10:57 AM