Commentary: Expect Backlash on Rulings

GOP fights back better than Democrats fight forward

It's the Fourth of July in a country some folks don't recognize any more. Here's something about that:

There's a lot that doesn't change after flags come down. Look at civil rights in the South from the last time Confederate flags fell in 1865 to now, for instance.

So congratulations, liberals, on your big wins on gay marriage and Obamacare in the Supreme Court. Add to that the take-down of rebel battle flags in the court of public opinion. But note that while those courts won your victories for you, the Democratic Party's pull in local and state governments is at rock bottom. Think about that. There are more states controlled by Republicans than at any time since the 1920s.

The remarkable events of the last couple of weeks didn't spring from nowhere. For years, people have declared the Democrats to be the party of the future. But the big issues broke through while Democrats are as close to irrelevant as at any time within living memory. Their party's inability to gain traction when everything's going their way is practical political failure at its most profound. Something's seriously wrong here.

Let's recap. Confederate flags started falling after a June 17 shooting in South Carolina so horrific, something had to give. It wasn't going to be guns.

On June 18, the pope declared man-made climate change is real, just one symptom of plundering of the environment. We're failing in our first, basic duty of being good stewards of the Earth, he said. You may not practice the pope's brand of Christianity. Still, he's the most widely recognized leader -- religious or otherwise -- of the Western world. He's not someone conservatives can ignore. Oh, and he declared we aren't doing nearly enough for the poor, either.

Then the Supreme Court declared a winner in the culture war. Gay marriage is now legal. Just before that the court reaffirmed Obamacare, which sounds important but really only kept the status quo. Conservatives were very upset the court saw a badly written section of O-care but shrugged and went on. Conservatives have a point. Courts shouldn't gloss over glaring flaws in the law. Those upset by this, though, need to ask themselves a question. Would the court have stuck to its traditional role if we had a Congress that could do a simple grammar fix without a government shutdown?

You'd think all this would finish off the Republicans. The opposite is true. For years, the GOP got much farther riding the backlash from current events than Democrats did riding the waves. The Republican Party was supposed to be dead in 2008. Instead, they now control the U.S. Senate and could keep it. They have an unbreakable grip on the House. They run almost all the states, too, including ours.

Now to be fair, parties and even politics are just means to an end. So if the ends you want come about, the party doesn't matter so much. Liberals are cheering while conservatives wonder what they elected Republicans for. I get that, but my answer to that was made at the start of this column. Making gains is one thing. Keeping them is another. Underlying political strength matters.

So now I'm wondering if the great liberal victories of last month foretell practical political disaster for Democrats in 2016. Suppose the Republicans do as good a job at riding the backlash as they have done since 2008. Now they're getting a bigger backwash than ever. Now suppose the electorate realizes that breakthroughs on the issues that matter to both them and Democrats don't need that party or its candidates. Suppose they think the fight is over. What do Democrats have to offer?

Mark my words: Liberals will miss the wedge issues we've seen purged this month much more than conservatives will in 2016. President Obama's coalition may have thrown its confetti and gone home.

Oh, by the way, Obamacare is in real trouble. Yeah, I know. We've heard that before. But look at the latest articles by Robert Laszewski. He's a very widely respected insurance industry analyst and the only pundit I know who writes like he's ever seen an actuarial table.

"Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away," wrote the late Philip K. Dick, a science fiction writer. So far, Republicans have suffered what should have been some knockout blows. Instead, they've handled their reality checks much better than those who claim to have been right all along.

Commentary on 07/04/2015