In addition to asking themselves the short-term question “What can we deliver for our constituents, and the people we’d like to have as constituents, right now, or at least make Bush veto?” and the longer-term question “What’s our motto and program if we take the White House in ’08?” Democrats need to ask themselves the structural question: “What structural advantages do the Republicans have, and how can those advantages be weakened?” We were markedly bad at that post-1974, as the Republicans were markedly good at it post-1980 (remember “de-funding the left”?) post-1994 and, especially, post-2000.
One blogger or another said recently that Tuesday’s result makes obsolete Tom Edsall’s book Building Red America: The New Conservative Coalition and the Drive For Permanent Power. I would say the opposite. The Democrats controlling Congress need to think seriously about, and try to dismantle, the factors that made permanent power a realistic goal for Rove and his co-conspirators. (As a libertarian acquaintance told me Thursday, “They shouldn’t have gone for permanence. Even the Nazis only wanted 1000 years.”)
Nobody’s happier than I am that we won. But if Bush had left a competent viceroy in Iraq, or if Mark Foley had used the telephone instead of IM’s, we might not have taken back the House. And if S.
R. Sidarth had suffered a flat tire on the way to the event at which George Allen called him “macaca,” or if Rush Limbaugh had kept his nasty little mind and flapping tongue off Michael J. Fox, we certainly wouldn’t have taken back the Senate. This election was a payoff for an astonishing amount of blood, sweat, and tears (to say nothing of money) donated by Democrats. But it was also a gift from the Republicans. In gratitude for their generosity, let’s make that gift keep on giving by using some of the power we just regained to level the playing field for the future.