Waves of future passed

We’ve come a long way since the pundits (and they were legion) declared the imminent death of the Republican Party in 2008. Reports of the party’s death were, to borrow the phrase from Mark Twain, greatly exaggerated. Did You Ever See a Dream Walking? is more like it.

In his brief retrospective on Tuesday night’s results, Michael Barone observes the retrograde nature of the Democratic Party in theory and practice. Here is his second numbered point:

In seriously contested races Republican candidates were generally younger, more vigorous, more sunny and optimistic than Democrats. The contrast was sharpest in Colorado and Iowa, which voted twice for President Obama. Cory Gardner and Joni Ernst seemed to be looking forward to the future. Their opponents grimly championed the stale causes of feminists and trial lawyers of the past.

Democrats see themselves as the party of the future. But their policies are antique. The federal minimum wage dates to 1938, equal pay for women to 1963, access to contraceptives to 1965. Raising these issues now is campaign gimmickry, not serious policymaking.

Democratic leading lights have been around a long time. The party’s two congressional leaders are in their 70s. The governors of the two largest Democratic states are sons of former governors who won their first statewide elections in 1950 and 1978.

This has implications for 2016. Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic nominee, worked in her first campaign in 1970. She has been a national figure since 1991. The Clintons’ theme song, “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow,” was released in 1977. That will be 39 years ago in 2016.

In the new issue of the Weekly Standard, Jay Cost has an important retrospective with an eye to the future:

What do these results tell us about 2016? Pundits note that a midterm blowout for the out party often fails to yield a big victory two years later (the Democratic sweep of 1986, for instance, was followed by the Republican triumph of 1988). Similarly, a good showing by the incumbent party in a midterm is no guarantee the party will hold the White House in 24 months (thus, Democrats held the line in 1978, two years before Jimmy Carter was ridden out on a rail; George W. Bush defeated Al Gore just two years after Democrats defied historical norms to pick up House seats in 1998).

Moreover, Democrats rightly note that the electorate will be different in 2016. It will be younger and less white. Can Republicans win it? The answer is yes, but they have to improve their performance with key voting blocs.

You will want to read the whole thing here.