Little will change

I’ve got to admit that I’m profoundly indifferent to what looks like the imminent change of hands of at least one house of Congress to the Democrats.  Many in the Right Blogosphere are wailing and gnashing their teeth at the fecklessness of the Republican leadership.  Many in the Left Blogosphere are chortling about the impending victory.

I doubt it will make a great deal of difference.

There are a number of reasons for my skepticism.  The first is that I live in Chicago and it’s a foregone conclusion that the regular Democrat running for every office will win.  Despite that party hegemony (or, perhaps, because of it) Chicago and, indeed, Illinois has no lack of political corruption.

There’s a saying that “a new broom sweeps clean”.  The Democratic leadership is no new broom.  They’re just a different old broom.

The second reason is a conclusion I’ve arrived at from a consideration of the last 50 years of American political history.  For roughly the first half of that period, Democrats controlled both houses of Congress and in the second half by and large Republicans have controlled one or both  house.  Wikipedia has a handy table of presidents and which party controlled the houses of Congress during each term here.

During the first, Democratically-controlled period, Democratic presidents (Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter) served four terms and Republicans (Eisenhower, Nixon/Ford) served four terms.  During the second Democratic president (Clinton) served two terms and Republican presidents (Reagan, Bush 41, Bush 43) served five terms.

It didn’t make a bit of difference.  Taxes went down during periods of complete Democratic control.  Taxes went up during periods of complete Democratic control.  Taxes went down during periods of complete Republican control.  And up.  We’ve been to war, expanded entitlements and civil rights, had booms and busts under both Democrats and Republicans.

The greatest expansion of civil rights (the ADA) and entitlements (Medicare expansion) in the last 30 years happened during a nominally small government Republican administrations.

I can’t remember an administration in which there hasn’t been a scandal or in which there hasn’t been a difference of opinion within the political party controlling Congress.

So, regardless of the stump speeches, I don’t expect a great progressive parousia after the Democrats take control of one or both houses of Congress or the presidency.  I believe there will still be scandals and corruption and missteps and outright errors.  And a triumph every now and again.

And Iraq?  Right now it looks very much as though the nightmare I envisioned in 2003 will actually come to pass regardless of the outcome of the election.  I believe that the political forces are aligning to cause us to withdraw our troops from Iraq and end our massive economic support for Iraq and the chips will fall where they may.

4 comments… add one
  • George Link

    I grew up in central Illinois. State politics was corrupt for as far back as I can remember (which is my father ranting about it some sixty years ago).

    Sounds like the political atmosphere in Chicago, if not the whole state, is reminscent of France: The voters don’t expect change no matter who is in power.

  • Oh, I think change is possible. Just not from the top down. By the time a politician has reached the Congress or the Senate they’re so compromised that they lose touch.

  • kreiz Link

    Great wisdom; you’re absolutely right, Dave. The US Government isn’t a ship that can spin around on a dime. Some believed that the Dem’s ’74 election dynamo would change everything. It didn’t. A different crowd believed that Newt’s revolution was the beginning of wholesale change. It hasn’t turned out that way. Our system is remarkably resilient to revolutionary change. For moderates like me, that’s a good thing.

    The single major change of the last century was that most of the reforms of early progressives became part of our political landscape- social security and medicare/medicaid were the most popular and untouchable examples. Goldwater tried in vain to turn back that clock. By 1980, Reagan’s so-called conservative revolution tacitly recognized these programs were here to stay.

  • On Iraq, I’m afraid you’re right.

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