Back in 2004, after George W. Bush won his second term, Karl Rove declared that Republicans were on the brink of permanent majority. Two years later, Democrats washed away GOP majorities in both the House and Senate in the 2006 wave. After 2008, Democrats had control of both Houses of Congress and the White House. So much for Rove’s theory.
Rove, though, is not alone. Democrats thought that they were on the verge taking control of government for the long haul. Some narratives speculated that Republicans wouldn’t be able to win the presidency for decades because of what Democratic analysts called the Rising American Electorate. Trump crushed that dream.
Now, some Republicans are predicting that Democrats will become a permanent minority. They reason that Democrats are part of a coastal party with no appeal to middle America. They have no real viable bench, the Daily Caller reasons and “The party could well find itself without a viable White House challenger to Trump in 2020.”
I’ve got a different theory. Both parties are out of touch with the American people. A plurality of voters is dissatisfied with the way the country is going and they’ve been voting against the status quo for almost a decade.
Only two recent elections have seen significant numbers of new voters enter the electorate—2008 and 2016. In both instances, voters showed up to support a candidate who they believed would overturn the status quo. After 2008, many of those voters never came out again.
In 2008, Barack Obama brought new voters into the electorate with a promise of hope and change after six years of war and a looming economic crisis. He excited African-Americans and young people as the first black president and with his desire to change the culture of Washington. When the economy was still bad in 2010 and the partisanship in Washington escalated instead of subsided, the young people stayed home, dismayed with the new president.
In 2016, Donald Trump brought out angry white voters who believe they’ve been ignored by politicians for decades. Many had never voted or hadn’t voted in years. They supported Trump because he promised to tear down the whole system and they are cheering his executive orders and fights with establishment politicians. However, if he can’t change the culture in Washington by 2018, those voters are likely to stay home, too. Traditional voters who aren’t happy with the Trump administration could easily cause another wave election by voting against Republicans like they did Democrats in 2010 and 2014.
Partisan dreams of a permanent majority never seem to pan out. The country is certainly in a cycle of Republican ascendancy but that’s as much a reaction against Democrats who recently held power as an endorsement of a conservative movement. Voters are fickle and self-interested, not ideological. As soon as they’re dissatisfied with the direction of the country, they’ll throw Republicans out and some Democrat will start talking about the permanent Democratic majority.