Era of Democratic Rule Not a Given with Obama Victory

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), November 7, 2008 | Go to article overview

Era of Democratic Rule Not a Given with Obama Victory


Byline: Donald Lambro, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Barack Obama is heading to the White House and his party has tightened its grip on Congress, but election and public policy analysts say this doesn't necessarily mean a prolonged era of Democratic rule.

Mr. Obama and the Democrats will have full control of the executive and legislative centers of power in January and they will have almost unbridled authority to enact their agenda at a time when a majority of the electorate seems ready and eager to accept sweeping changes, as the liberal freshman senator promised in his campaign.

But a key Democratic policy adviser warns that Mr. Obama and his party must move cautiously on the kind of changes they will implement to avoid the mistake of giving the country a bigger government than voters really want, a move that could lead voters into rethinking their faith in the Democrats in the 2010 midterm election.

"That Democrats now command a unified government for the first time since the catastrophic midterm defeat of 1994 should flash strong warning signs to party leaders, said William Galston, who was President Clinton's chief domestic policy adviser.

On the critical issue of government's role, Democrats do not have a mandate. Rather, they have a chance to make their case. And they must do so at a time when public trust in government is at a historic low, Mr. Galston warned his party.

Meantime, Republican leaders Thursday scoffed at news stories that suggest the Democrats have begun to build what could be a longterm majority, saying that any predictions of the Republican Party's permanent minority status were greatly exaggerated.

The Democrats are as fully permanent as Republicans were in 2004. If they do well, they will last. If they do badly, they will be fired, said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

I've lived through the Republicans' 1964 obituary, the 1974 obituary and the 1992 obituary, Mr. Gingrich said. If the Democrats listen to the American people and deliver, it could create a strong majority. If they repudiate the American people and fail to deliver, and if the Republicans learn from their own mistakes and failures, the Democratic majority could be very short-lived.

Veteran elections analyst Rhodes Cook similarly thinks it is premature at best to suggest that Tuesday's election has ushered in a lengthy political reign for the Democrats.

Obama was the beneficiary of an unusually good political climate that favored him and the Democrats, but it's not going to stay pro-Democrat forever, Mr. …

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