While all electoral signs do continue to indicate a fair Republican landslide (although one in which we preserve the Senate), I want to push back against the developing idea that that decline will continue through 2012. In fact, I think the result will be quite the opposite (although evidence for that position has yet to develop). Within a few months after the 2010 members are seated, I would expect to see the second derivative of our poll numbers sharply increase, go positive, and stay that way.
For our decline to date, we can blame the exclusive narrative of the 2008-10 political period, in two parts: that (1) the party in power has been unable to arrest the United States’ economic decline, or, more honestly, bring it into recovery mode, and (2) that the party in power is, exclusively, the Democrats.
The second part was never actually true: the “supermajority” was illusive, and the façade of control it created was probably the worst thing that’s yet happened to President Obama. Exploiting that assumption, the Republicans could (and did) deny almost any effective reforms, and still credibly blame Democrats for an inaction they struggled to avoid.
Our perceived monopoly deprived the GOP of any need to create a real agenda. They’ve coasted on that for a while yet, and the “Pledge to America” represents no change from that trend. Our hope, then, is (and must be) that the election drives a re-evaluation of who’s actually capable of what in this country’s government. If the GOP starts to shoulder some of the responsibility of governing, we may gain through political pressure what we were never able to through just-shy-of-60 numbers: a useful, governing coalition.