Gentle readers must read this column in its entirety to continue to be considered gentle readers. It's all about the history of midterm elections and whether they indicate new political alignment and new policies. We quote Barone's conclusion:
All of which leaves me with the conclusion that ideas are more important than partisan vote counts. Democrats could not go beyond the New Deal from 1938 to 1958, because they had not persuaded most Americans to go Roosevelt's way until 13 years after his death. Similarly, Republicans never had reliable majorities for Reagan's polices until 1994, six years after he left office. Democratic gains in 1974 made the House the most left-leaning branch of government for 20 years--in vivid contrast to the prognostication of '60s liberals, who said it would always be the most conservative--and Republican gains in 1994 made it the most conservative-leaning. Those majorities affected public policy, but not always in ways their partisans liked.
If the Democrats are justified in preparing to change the drapes today, the questions to ask are: How enduring will be such a partisan switch? How much change in public policy will it accomplish? To the first question, the likelihood of an enduring partisan switch is not high--if you believe the polls showing the leading Republicans, Rudy Giuliani and John McCain, walloping the best-known Democrats, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Al Gore, in 2008. Changes in public policy? Well, the lead item on the Democrats' wish list is to raise the minimum wage, a law first passed in 1938. Not exactly a new idea.
I don't know what the results of the midterm elections of 2006 will be. But I doubt that they will have the sweeping partisan or policy consequences of the midterm elections of 1874 and 1894, or 1938 and 1994.