January 26, 2006
It's Not '94, Yet
By Marshall Wittmann

I was around for the 1994 Republican Revolution. In a small way, I was part of it. And there is no indication that 2006 is 1994, yet.

First of all, the landslide snuck up on the Democrats. Most of the political class, and indeed even many Republicans did not sense that they were on the verge of a political tsunami. Newt was virtually alone in anticipating an earthquake.

Today, the Republicans have plenty of advance notice of their problems. And their problems are profound - corruption, an uncertain economy and a possible rebellion on the Medicare drug law. However, they are now taking action, however cosmetic, to repair the Abramoff damage. Expect the President to embrace reform in his State of the Union Address. The Republicans are attempting to take a page of their Enron playbook - get ahead of the reform parade even if it is a tad bit disingenuous.

The other factor mitigating against the '94 comparison is that Democrats are not yet clearly viewed as the reform party. Yes, the party is advancing some important reforms. But, as of yet, they have been timid in skewering their own sacred cows - earmarks, for example. Newt knew that in order to be credible with the American people , it was necessary to upset the apple cart in his own party. Otherwise, folks see all parties as tainted. And the "we did not receive Abramoff money, only tribe money" dodge doesn't work. Democrats must be willing to be tough on some of their own for the American people to believe they are true reformers.

The other problem of the Democrats is just as the Republicans are exposing their weaknesses, so is the donkey. Over the past two months, the Democrats have demonstrated in both the Alito nomination and their dovishness on Iraq and surveillance, that they have learned little from the last election. As John McIntyre aptly pointed out on Real Clear Politics, Democrats walked into a Rovian trap on the eavesdropping issue. For those lefties who believe that this is just a wedge issue that was conjured up in Rove's diabolical laboratory and assisted by heretical Democrats, consider this:

* The DNC Chairman suggested that America couldn't win in Iraq.
* The House Democratic Leader embraced a plan for near-immediate withdrawal from Iraq.
* The Senate Democratic Leader celebrated that the party blocked the reauthorization of the Patriot Act.
* The Party is objecting to a surveillance program of Al Qaeda.

The only force that can save the Republican Party is known as the Democratic Party. In fact, the most effective Democratic '06 strategy may be to go away, disappear, be invisible, and let the Republicans self-destruct.

There are other structural factors that mitigate against a 2006 version of '94. Of course, if the economy collapses or there is another Katrina, all bets are off. Democrats must also galvanize support from centrist independents with an explicit "non-partisan" appeal. Newt did this a decade ago with an appeal to the Perotistas.

Right now, it looks that Democrats will make gains, but not a takeover.

Bull Moose

Marshall Wittmann

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