With Economic Rebound Ahead, Democrats Set for Generation-Long Slow Burn

Votes are often determined by economics. Win McNamee/Getty Images

In 1776, the 13 American colonies along the eastern seaboard of the North American continent were part of a global empire comprising the world’s leading economic and military power at the time. What drove the colonists to declare their independence from that economically and militarily dominant empire, even engaging in violent revolution against it?

Even the early roots of America were extremely prosperous. By 1776, that had given Americans the confidence to think they could do better on their own.

When the American people feel prosperous, they want freedom and independence. But when they feel mired in economic struggle, they look to the government for help.

In the 65 years following the Civil War, the American people felt prosperous and confident. America had emerged as a leading industrial power. The Republican Party remained politically dominant for that entire time. Socialism became all the rage in Europe but failed to gain a foothold in America.

With the Great Depression, however, that all changed. Americans quickly turned to Democrats, granting them enormous congressional majorities. Democrats, with some momentum from the tyranny of the status quo as Milton Friedman called it, remained politically dominant until the economically disastrous 1970s. Double digit inflation, unemployment, and interest rates then did them in.

So the American people turned to Reagan and Republicans in 1980, sweeping in a Republican majority in the Senate and a president with a fresh perspective and credible plan for prosperity. At the time, many considered Reagan a political extremist. So the House Democratic majority remained as a potential check.

That continued until 1994, when the American people were confident enough in the Republican pro-growth perspective that Newt Gingrich could lead another political revolution, giving Republicans control over both houses of Congress for 12 years and breaking at long last the Democratic Great Depression chokehold on Congress.

People forget that John McCain inched ahead of Obama in the polls for a short time, until the financial crisis took firm hold in late 2008. Because prosperity had already waned a bit under George W. Bush, this downturn convinced the American people to turn decisively to the Democrats that year, granting them huge congressional majorities.

But Obama and Democrats abused those majorities with Obamacare and all-time record federal deficits and debt. So in 2010, voters replaced the House Democratic majority with a decisive Republican majority, a 63-seat gain. Still, Democrats persisted in their anti-growth folly. So in 2014, voters did the same for the Senate.

Since Democrats tend to believe what the mainstream media tell them, they don’t know the American economy never fully recovered from the 2007-2009 recession. With Democrats promising still more of the same, even campaigning on throwing coal miners out of work, voters did what Democrats and their media thought unthinkable: They elected Donald Trump.

Democrats today have no idea how much trouble they are in, just like they didn’t in 1980 when Reagan and the Republicans took over for a generation. If Republicans succeed in restoring economic growth, they will remain in power for another generation.

That growth would be sharply in prospect with the tax reform plans Republicans are considering, deregulation (especially of energy), budget cuts (Keynesian economics proved illogical), and stable dollar monetary policies.

Most Democrats still don’t know they are going to lose more Senate seats next year. Ryan’s Republicans will likely handily retain their House majority.

Democrats also don’t know that Bernie Sanders’ openly socialist agenda is hopelessly outdated and has zero prospect of restoring growth. Worse, Barack Obama still vying for control of the party is only stylistically better.

This is no time for Democrats to be offering the American people soft socialism—unless they want to be in what Reagan called the dustbin of history. 

Peter Ferrara is a Senior Fellow at the Heartland Institute, and a Senior Policy Advisor to the National Tax Limitation Foundation. He served in the White House Office of Policy Development under President Reagan and as Associate Deputy Attorney General of the United States under President George H.W. Bush.

With Economic Rebound Ahead, Democrats Set for Generation-Long Slow Burn