In the continuing effort of Conservatives and Republicans to make every single mistake Liberals and Democrats made in the late-1980s when their ideology ossified and they lost their grip on power, David Frum has been denounced by the WSJ as a class traitor, making his living bashing Republicans to the MSM, and drummed out of AEI. Mind you, I was surprised that Frum was so, well, Frum, that he is taking off all of Passover (he can't get his stuff out of the office at AEI until April 9.
It should be noted that Frum does not disagree with the substance of criticism against the health care bill. What he has done is warn Republicans that they made bad strategic choices and if they actually want to score policy wins they need to act more strategically and not follow the lead of political pundits with different priorities/agendas. This is what a number of Rs tried to say after Obama's election, only to have their heads handed to them by legions of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh fans.
But I think Frum is utterly right on trends. Nate Silver gives this assessment of mild improvement for Ds based on the immediate returns. That is, the Ds are better off having gotten a healthcare bill rather than not but that they should have gone for financial reform first. I think that's right as of today. What I am watching (and feeling, through this bizarre political instinct that I can't explain -- I suspect its a subconscious processing of a lot of little scattered data points), is a new narrative taking shape and taking root. Obama is being transformed from naive bumbler to player with grit and determination to take big risks and see them through, while Pelosi is becoming a wily political operative able to round up the votes. (Emmanuel and Reid are dropping out of the picture, and Biden, as always, remains comic relief).
Republicans, OTOH, are moving from stubborn stalwarts to spoiled brat children. And, to be frank, the Tea Party folks are starting to scare people. It's one thing to be nervous about "big government." But it's another to watch a mob spit on elected representative, shout death threats, and carry out random acts of vandalism. Blaming this on a few radical elements is about as effective for Republicans and conservatives as it ever was for Liberals and Democrats -- especially as Rs still try to recapture the magic they had in the 1990s for simultaneously embracing the radical wing of the base while being perceived as mainstream.
Which is why I am thinking this is going to be a lot less like 1994 and a lot more like 2002. If the election were held today, I suspect Ds would lose about 20-30 seats in the House (mostly among Blue Dogs) and 3-5 Senate seats. But it won't be held for another 7 months. Unless something happens to radically change the narrative, Ds are going to go into the summer on a campaign with a list of actual accomplishments popular with many middle class independents (student loan reform, credit card reform, health insurance reform, S-Chip) and the biggest priority for most middle class voters -- financial services reform -- ostensibly tied up by Republicans running on a "vote for us and we will keep the Democrats from doing anything else!" agenda.
As a progressive rather than a Democrat, this leaves me less than thrilled. The party faithful are displaying the same lamentable tendency to forgive all as elections moved closer that marked the Republican base for many years. Remember, the base wants to believe. It looks for excuses to believe. That means all the young, idealistic under 30 crowd who turned out in droves for Obama in '08 and got pissed off during '09-'10 are gradually persuading themselves that Obama and the Ds are not so bad after all and the Republicans are so much worse and oh, yes we can! I do believe! Which means that "centrists" Ds will learn they can play the progressives the way they played other party segments. We are already seeing it with gay and lesbian Dems grumblingly saying "well, repealing Don't ask don't tell is a good start, and if the Rs win we will get worse than nothing, so lets give Obama and the Ds one last chance and count on them repealing DOMA after the elections."
Lots of caveats. We still need to see how party primaries on both sides go. Something big could happen to shift public sentiment. Somebody in either party could do something so phenomenally dumb it changes the playing field. The economy could crater again, or could revive more quickly than anticipated. Rs could wise up in time. Ds could get stupid again.
But for the first time in a long time, it's looking like 2010 will not be the disaster for Ds the Rs continue to project it will be.