Two perspectives for the future.
First, Glenn Reynolds on what the GOP should do in 2011:
Historically speaking, this seems to be the hardest thing for many Republicans inside the Beltway to do.
The social scene in Washington DC is chock full of soft (and hard) statists. If it was up to the swells at the Washington Post, the federal government would always grow. And really, why should any of the smart set in the media-government complex want conservative governance? Getting back to a limited constitutionally based federal apparatus would mean the end of the taxpayer funded gravy train.
The other thing that the incoming Republicans must realize is that the media hates them. Not 'dislikes'. Not even 'disagrees with'. Hates. A freshman GOP congressman might get a few invitations to DC cocktail parties if he votes against some piece of conservative legislation. Attending those soirees comes at a cost. The very necessary reform of our government will be stymied, of course. More importantly for the Republican gadfly, hanging with the Washington kool kid set means being a slave to their whims. The media only loves GOPers when they take a crap on Righties. Once the apostate Representative votes for right-of-center programs, the big media folks will turn off their Strange New Respect.
Next, Jay Cost has some sic transit gloria mundi-style words:
...what's most memorable about the 1946 election is that it wasn't a harbinger of a post-New Deal realignment. Two years later, the Republicans were swept out of power as thoroughly as they had been swept in, and apart from a brief and bare majority at the beginning of the Eisenhower administration, they wouldn't recapture a House majority until they were led by a guy named Newt. What happened?
One major reason for the GOP's failure to retain the majority was the response of the Democratic party to the results of 1946, wherein the party moved quickly to outflank the GOP on the Communist issue. It's no coincidence that Americans for Democratic Action -- a liberal interest group that was resolutely anti-Communist -- was founded in January 1947 just as the 80th Congress convened. President Truman fought the Republicans tooth and nail on domestic politics over the next two years, but on foreign affairs he and the Republicans, led by Michigan Senator Arthur Vandenberg, hammered out a bipartisan policy that would remain in place more or less for the next quarter century. What's more, under the advice of his political counselors, he also went after Henry Wallace, the former cabinet secretary and vice president whom Truman had fired after he publicly promoted a soft stance on the Soviets. Wallace's third party candidacy in 1948 was just what Truman needed to push most of the Soviet sympathizers out of the Democratic coalition, thus undermining one of the major Republican arguments from 1946.
The GOP's big pick ups during the 2010 midterm elections happened--in part--because voters are nervous about galloping Obama style liberalism. There is a deep concern amongst the citizenry about runaway spending, crippling debt, long term unemployment and the perception that government is incompetent when dealing with real world problems. In early January, it seems impossible that Obama and the Democrats could outmaneuver the GOP on the small-government/entitlement reform/jobs front. But it is very possible. The Republicans aren't known as 'The Stupid Party' for nothing.
If the GOP lets Democrats retake the high ground, they will forfeit a massive opportunity. They will throw away the nation's best--and possibly last--chance to get America back to a Constitutional framework. Worse for the GOP, they'll irreparably damage their small government brand. There are already more than a few conservatives who don't trust the Republicans as it is. Let the GOP go back to their Hastert-era big stupid spendaholic ways and you can almost garauntee the formation of a right-wing third party.
The Republicans can take bold solid steps to reform the federal government. Or they can devolve and die. The choice is in their hands.