In the immediate aftermath of a big election night, emotions run high and excitement becomes contagious. For the victors, it’s probably only natural to start imagining greatness on a historic scale.
Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, proclaimed Wednesday that Republicans may have built a “hundred-year majority” in the House.“We’re as back to a majority as any of us have seen in our lifetimes. It may be a hundred-year majority,” he said.
Got that? The Republican Party may be unpopular, and its ideas may lack public support, and it may not have a real policy agenda to speak of, but its leaders are nevertheless comfortable remaining in the majority – until 2114.
To be sure, Walden has reason to be pleased. The Republicans’ House majority is simply massive – the largest since the Truman era – and will almost certainly stick around for a while. I don’t imagine Democrats will be locked out for a full century, but I also don’t see the Speaker’s gavel in Democratic hands real soon.
The problem with Walden’s hubris, however, is how familiar it sounds.
On November 10, 1994, then-Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Texas), feeling confident after a GOP wave, told the Washington Post that he saw the cycle as “a permanent realignment” in Republicans’ favor, adding, “I think that realignment can make us the permanent majority party in the Congress.”
In 2001, CNN ran a report on Karl Rove, who saw George W. Bush as a figure who could “usher in a permanent Republican majority.”
Two years later, the New Yorker ran this profile of Rove.
Rove’s main goal over the next year and a half is making George W. Bush what his father wasn’t, a reëlected President – when I asked if he had mapped out the campaign, he said, “Don’t expect me to answer this question” – but he is too ambitious to want only that. The real prize is creating a Republican majority that would be as solid as, say, the Democratic coalition that Franklin Roosevelt created – a majority that would last for a generation.
A year later, Tom DeLay told a group of Republicans at a retreat, “2004 is the year we start thinking like a permanent majority.”
Four years later, Americans elected a Democratic president, Democratic Senate, and Democratic House.
There’s no denying the impressive scope and scale of the GOP’s successes in 2014. But the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee isn’t the first to wonder aloud about permanent majorities – and those who came before him always ended up disappointed.
Democrats have some real challenges that need quick and effective solutions. If you missed it, Greg Sargent’s interviews with leading Dem pollsters helps make clear exactly where the party fell short in 2014, and the kind of inherent problems that could imperil the party going forward.
But here’s a reminder for Walden and others: political winds can shift direction quickly.