Who’s the Anti-Newt?

WHO’S THE ANTI-NEWT?….Liz Marlantes wonders aloud in The New Republic if 2006 could be a Democratic version of 1994, when Republicans won 54 seats in the House and and eight in the Senate and seized control of both houses:

In Democratic circles these days, there is much talk of 1994 ? with good reason. The president’s approval ratings are bad, Congress’s are even worse, and, most importantly, scandal is sweeping the nation’s capital. The atmosphere is poisonous enough that some Democrats believe it could produce the kind of electoral storm last seen twelve years ago, when Republicans retook Congress by railing against corruption in Washington. Of course, the 2006 Democrats differ in many ways from the 1994 Republicans. One key difference may well be the lack of Newt Gingrich ? or, rather, a liberal version of him.

Marlantes may be right, but I doubt that she’s really nailed the key factor. Yes, Gingrich was a pit bull, but the biggest thing he had going for him was simpler: he was on the tail end of a 30-year shift of white, mostly Southern conservatives from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party. Pressure had been building along that particular tectonic plate for a long time, and in 1994 Gingrich was able to turn it into an electoral earthquake. Instead of gaining a few seats per election, he gained them all at a single time.

Without that underlying dynamic, the 1994 landslide would have been a fizzle, gaining a dozen seats, not 54. So while Democrats might very well need a Newt Gingrich of their own, what they really need if they want to win back control of Congress is a tectonic shift they can take advantage of ? and so far I just haven’t seen any big, pent-up frustration on the part of center-right voters that might turn large numbers of them into center-left voters instead. It’ll be healthcare eventually, but in the meantime I’m stumped.