The triumphalism on the Left and defeatism on the Right about the present moment in American politics have long since departed from reality. I know emotions such as glee and angst are always lying just below the surface among the politically active, but perspective and sobriety go a long way to keeping one from becoming rather silly.
A Democrat was always likely to win the 2008 presidential race. I’m not saying that will definitely happen in three weeks, but if it does, that will simply confirm longstanding political patterns and reflect how and why swing voters swing. The Obama and McCain campaigns will have affected the outcome somewhat, but unless it’s a blowout, their contributions will not have mattered much (sorry, political consultants, but some of us see right through you).
The Bush administration has been fraught with errors of its own making and crises not of its own making. The president is unpopular. The people are upset. Generally speaking, then, the natural outcome is a change of party. That Obama isn’t running away with this by a huge margin is testament to the fact that the electorate remains essentially Center-Right, not Center-Left. Why do you think Obama is running as a anti-corruption, war-fighting (in the Stans), tax-cutting deficit hawk with nary a thing to say about cultural issues?
Ronald Reagan led a political revolution in 1980 against decades of Keynesian nonsense and cultural rot — and then saw his party lose congressional seats in 1982. Bill Clinton led a Democratic takeover of Washington in 1992, which lasted two years. Bush and the GOP won full control in 2004, which lasted two years. In modern times, American political power has had a quicksilver quality. Does that mean that the upcoming election isn’t important? Hardly! But it won’t be the last word on the future of our Republic. No single election ever is.
Also, it wouldn’t greatly surprise me if on Election Day the Republicans achieve a net gain in governorships, even as the party loses additional ground in D.C.. In the state of Washington, no Republican has been elected governor since 1980. But Dino Rossi is virtually tied with incumbent Gov. Christine Gregoire in the latest polls. And in North Carolina, my home state, Republican Pat McCrory and Democrat Bev Perdue are tied, even though Obama is running quite well here. No Republican has been elected governor in NC in 20 years. In some states, Republicans are also poised to make legislative gains after disappointing cycles in 2004 and 2006.
Politics has no ultimate victor. It has no final, decisive battle. It just goes on and on, like soap operas and Law and Order.