Magazine article The American Conservative

Wheels of History

Magazine article The American Conservative

Wheels of History

Article excerpt

Historians and pundits often compare historical trends to graph lines on a chart, with political moods rising and falling like the heart rate of a cardiac patient. Alternatively, there's the proverbial pendulum, swinging from left to right, right to left. A better metaphor would be the wheel, circular in shape and motion. They can move in any direction and at any number of speeds. Sometimes they roll forward, sometimes backward, sticking to a narrow groove. Sometimes they keep rolling in one direction, gaining mass and momentum like a snowball and, in the end, often melting like one.

This is what I have witnessed over a lifetime of writing about--and sometimes, as an aide to presidents Nixon, Ford, and Reagan, engaged in making--political history. While my first conscious political recollection is of Harry Truman's 1948 upset victory over Thomas E. Dewey (I was in kindergarten), I don't need to go back that far to make my point. A quick glance at what has been going on over the 15 years since the launching of The American Conservative, viewed in five-year intervals, tells the story.

2003: This was the year that many political observers of both right and left thought the Republicans were on the threshold of long-term political dominance. "W"'s performance as mourner-in-chief and then avenging angel after 9/11 had seen the GOP through the 2002 midterm elections and headed for a strong presidential re-election victory in 2004. Karl Rove, a political strategist with considerable historical insight, believed we were in for a long run of Republican executive and legislative dominance similar to the one ushered in by William McKinley in 1896 and lasting all the way to Herbert Hoover. Karl had the maps and charts to prove it, featuring the rise of a moderately conservative exurbanite (far suburb) population bloc, complete with soccer moms. Sure enough, the 2004 landslide came, rolling over the Democrats like a giant snowball...only to melt away in time for the 2006 midterms and the 2008 presidential election. There was nothing wrong with Karl's analysis, as far as it went. But it couldn't foresee the costly after-effects of the neocon foray into Iraq or the nasty hurricane that slammed into New Orleans.

2008: And thus TAC turned five with the rise of Barack Obama, who not only trounced John McCain in the presidential election but also ushered in Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate. Now Democrats were talking about a permanent new ruling coalition of young/black/Latino/union member/environmentalist/LGBT voters that would lead us to ever-greener more progressive pastures, starting with comprehensive, compulsory government healthcare. …

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