Last night on Fox News’ “The Kelly File,” Charles Krauthammer offered up his pre-emptive verdict on the 2014 midterm elections. With the GOP expected to do pretty well, Krauthammer saw an incipient catastrophe not just for President Obama and the Democrats, but for the very concept of liberal governance. “This is a referendum on Obama’s hyper-liberalism,” Krauthammer said. “This is liberalism on trial.” That might seem a bit hyperbolic, given that the Republican advantages this cycle are owe a great deal to a very friendly Senate map, but if you’re at all familiar with Krauthammer’s brand of elections analysis, then this is nothing out of the ordinary.
Historically, the Krauthammer Take on Election Day will fall into one of two categories:
If the Republicans win, then it’s an unquestioned affirmation of conservatism and/or a crippling rebuke of liberalism that Democrats and the left will scarcely be able to recover from as they slide towards irrelevancy.
If the Democrats win, then it’s no big deal, or just a minor hiccup, and the march towards conservative supremacy continues unabated.
This pattern has held with remarkable consistency for at least a decade now.
2014: Republicans strongly favored to take the Senate, gain seats in the House.
Krauthammer Verdict: Disaster for liberalism (potentially).
This is a referendum on Obama’s hyper-liberalism. In 2010 it was it was sort of aspirational, it was in legislation but it hadn’t been enacted yet. But now we are six years in and we see the results of Obamacare; we see the results of the stimulus, the worst recovery since the second World War; we see the results of this kind of overreaching government, which at the same time is incompetent. I don’t have to go through all the scandals, all the failures abroad and at home. And this isn’t only the party in government, this is the party of government. This is liberalism on trial.
2012: President Obama wins reelection, Democrats pick up seats in the House and Senate.
Krauthammer Verdict: Conservatives still on top.
Additionally, warn the doomsayers, Republicans must change not just ethnically but ideologically. Back to the center. Moderation above all!
More nonsense. Tuesday’s exit polls showed that by an eight-point margin (51-43), Americans believe that government does too much. And Republicans are the party of smaller government. Moreover, onrushing economic exigencies — crushing debt, unsustainable entitlements — will make the argument for smaller government increasingly unassailable.
So, why give it up? Republicans lost the election not because they advanced a bad argument but because they advanced a good argument not well enough.
2010: Republicans take control of the House, pick up seats in the Senate.
Krauthammer Verdict: Disaster for Obama and his "dead" agenda.
Tuesday was the electorate's first opportunity to render a national verdict on this manner of governance. The rejection was stunning. As a result, President Obama's agenda is dead. And not just now. No future Democratic president will try to revive it - and if he does, no Congress will follow him, in view of the carnage visited upon Democrats on Tuesday.
2008: Barack Obama defeats John McCain, Democrats expand majorities in House and Senate.
Krauthammer Verdict: Can’t draw any firm conclusions.
But if you sell the idea of government as protector of last resort, and people buy it, the name won't matter. You become a liberal country.
And that's what, if Obama is successful, he may do it. But if you want to generalize off of this week's election, it's a mistake.
It will depend on how long our recession is. If it is a decade as in Japan and nothing happened, it won't have any effect. If it is a decade and FDR was seen as having helped, is how he was perceived, it will change the country and cause a realignment.
2006: Democrats take control of both Houses of Congress for first time since 1994.
Krauthammer Verdict: “Only a minor earthquake.”
The fact that the Democrats crossed midfield does not make this election a great anti-conservative swing. Republican losses included a massacre of moderate Republicans in the Northeast and Midwest. And Democratic gains included the addition of many conservative Democrats, brilliantly recruited by Rep. Rahm Emanuel with classic Clintonian triangulation. Hence Heath Shuler of North Carolina, antiabortion, pro-gun, anti-tax -- and now a Democratic House member.
The result is that both parties have moved to the right. The Republicans have shed the last vestiges of their centrist past, the Rockefeller Republicans. And the Democrats have widened their tent to bring in a new crop of blue-dog conservatives.
2004: George W. Bush wins reelection, Republicans gain seats in both Houses of Congress.
Krauthammer Verdict: Stunning mandate for conservative reimagining of American governance.
If [Bush] did not hoard his political capital then, he will not now. Knowing he will never again run for office, he is going to attempt several large things, most notably reforming Social Security and perhaps radically simplifying the tax code. He was careful to mention both in his speech on Wednesday when he claimed the election, and in his news conference Thursday when he claimed his mandate.
These tasks carry such political risk that politicians rarely talk about them, let alone do them. In his first term, Bush devoted no political capital to these domestic issues because he had spent it all on Afghanistan and Iraq. With a second term and a solid mandate, his account is replenished. He is not a man to sit on it, collecting coupons.