The Abiding Mystery


Back to back wave elections for one party, like 2006 and 2008, are extremely uncommon in American history. So what are the roots of the 2008 election? Clearly, the trends operated on many levels, some of which will be more apparent to historians in the future than they are to us today. But even now, even over the last eighteen months, there’s one cause that remains a mystery to me and for which I’ve seen no really adequate explanation.

I’d put it something like this.

After the 2006 election, it was very clear that the public had turned strongly against President Bush and the Iraq War. The turn of the public mood wasn’t limited to those two issues. There was the general backdrop of discontent with corruption in the executive branch and Congress, and other issues too. But those were the two big, resonating issues.

For a brief interlude after the election, it looked like the congressional GOP might move into some sort of quasi-opposition to the president, at least distance themselves significantly from him. If you remember, there was a brief period of equivocation on Iraq. And then, nothing. Within a month or so, it was clear that elected Republicans were doubling down on President Bush, the Iraq War and pretty much everything else. And that decision was reflected in the presidential nominating campaign as well.

But it’s really the congressional GOP that is what I’m most interested in. I remember through 2007 thinking, What am I missing here? How is this not going to lead to another slaughter in 2008? And of course that is exactly what happened. The only thing surprising in retrospect is how aggressively the Republicans seemed to court the disaster.

Let me open it up for discussion. What happened?