A Cautionary Tale

by Robert Costa

George F. Will talks with Sen. Mitch McConnell:

If there is a majority of first-term members in 2011, many new members will have won by expressing disgust with Washington’s mores. This will challenge even the formidable leadership skills of Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell.

After November, Republican eyes will turn to the prize of the presidency in 2012. Concerning which, McConnell sees cautionary lessons from three other years — 1946, 1954 and 1994.

In 1946, President Truman’s party lost control of both the House and Senate. In 1948, however, Truman won an improbable reelection running against the “do-nothing 80th Congress.” In 1954, President Eisenhower’s party lost control of the House and Senate. But two years later, Eisenhower was resoundingly reelected. In 1994, President Clinton’s party lost control of the House and Senate. In 1996, Clinton cruised to reelection, partly because of reckless behavior — e.g., the government shutdown of 1995 — by congressional Republicans.

In his NR interview last week, Joe Miller, a self-described student of history, gave us his take:

“I think there’s an understanding that the mood of the nation has changed in such a way that there is not going to be toleration of business as usual. If that means shutting down the government, so be it. I mean, we’ll do what it takes. . . . I think that we will have enough like-minded people coming into D.C. that we’re actually going to be able to accomplish something. . . . I recognized from the very beginning that this was not going to be easy. The culture of Washington is very difficult to change. Even though I haven’t been here, I’ve long been a student of American politics. To think that this is going to change overnight is a fantasy.”

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