Thursday, June 03, 2004

Managing expectations
It wasn’t long ago that the Republicans were talking about an era of unchallenged one-party domination. Their narrative for the next few decades began with this election. The popular wartime president would sweep back into office in a historical landslide with strong coattails in both houses. Their majority would be large enough to end Democratic filibusters. The Democrats would fade into insignificance for a generation along with the moderate wing of the Republican Party. The social revolution would advance with increasing speed and its gains would be irreversible.

But in a healthy democracy, these kinds of revolutions have a way of failing right on the verge of success. For them, it is always brightest just before the dusk. It’s almost bedtime for our revolutionary friends.

As a happy illustration, I present the Republican house campaign bracing the faithful for a net gain of no seats at all.
After Texas redrew its political boundaries last year, the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives was buzzing with talk of big increases in their majority. But when Representative Tom Reynolds of New York, the chairman of the National Republican Campaign Committee, offered his outlook for 2004 on Wednesday, it did not include such expansive predictions.

"My goal," Mr. Reynolds said, "is to bring back 228 members of House Republicans next year."

That, as it happens, was the same number of Republicans in the House until Tuesday, when Stephanie Herseth, a Democrat, squeaked to victory in a special election in South Dakota, bringing it down to 227. When reporters expressed surprise that Mr. Reynolds was not predicting an even bigger majority, given the redistricting in Texas, he simply reiterated his stance. "My goal is to bring back 228," he said, adding, "I don't predict seats."

Over the last two years, I’ve worried a lot about the health of our democracy. When people in a democracy are insecure or angry enough, they do stupid things, like sign away their rights for the illusion of security (and it is almost always an illusion). Pulling back from one-party rule and a social revolution desired by a minority is a sign that we are still healthy. Woo hoo, go Democracy.

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