I did a radio interview earlier today about the midterms and something that struck me repeatedly was the totally unwarranted sense many seem to have that a GOP pickup of 55-60 House seats would represent some kind of bold new era of conservatism and/or descent into manic fascism. I’m not very old, and I remember perfectly well life under a House GOP majority in the 1995-2006. They did some good things, they did some bad things, they did some stupid things, and then they lost power. Ta-da. Life goes on.
More generally, over the past 20 years we’ve had unified Democratic control for four years (1993-94 and 2009-10) and unified GOP control for four years (2003-2006) and divided government for the other twelve. In the twenty years before that divided government was even more common. So a big Republican win will take us from an abnormally strong political position for Democrats back to version of the situation that typically prevails in modern America—one that will probably leave them with less influence over policy than they had in 2007-2008.
I don’t want to deny that the change is a big deal. The shift out of the normal situation and into the abnormal one that occurred in November 2008 was a significant event. And it led to, among other things, a sweeping overhaul of the health care sector. So switching back into normal position is also a big deal. But it’s a big deal in the sense that things are going back to normal, not in the sense that we’re entering a new wild era in which Americans will finally repudiate the welfare state.