2009 Redux?

For those of you vulnerable to a bout of deja vu, this could be a tough week. Here’s the emerging MSM narrative of the national political scene:

President Obama, having “shifted to the left” since winning re-election, is in a popularity free fall because of his harsh partisan treatment of Republicans and his false prophecies of the negative impact of the taste of austerity offered by an appropriations sequester his staff invented in the first place. Moderate Democrats are fleeing him in hordes, and/or preparing to triangulate against his old-school liberalism.

Republicans, meanwhile, having “rebranded” themselves and shown they are willing to adjust to defeat by bravely attacking the memory of Todd Akin and considering a change in their posture on immigration that’s half-way down the path back to that of George W. Bush, have at the same time held fast on making “runaway spending” their obsession. And they have a new hero: Rand Paul, whose 13-hour filibuster last week showed that principle-based confrontation is the best, the only, the eternal way to secure conservative victory.

If you’ve watched all this and gotten a distinct whiff of 2009, you’re not the only one. The arrival this week of a new and more radical Ryan Budget will spread this impression more widely.

Worst of all, the realities of an incumbent president’s second midterm election immediately after an adverse redistricting have significantly increased the possibility that a Republican Party stampeding yet again to the Right will secure another electoral vindication: not the kind of gains they made in 2010, to be sure (that required two consecutive Democratic congressional landslides to create massive Democratic “exposure,” not to mention a Great Recession and larger-than-usual turnout disparities), but enough to convince conservatives all over again that extremism bears no significant political risks.

It would all be either pathetic or funny, if it weren’t our own country we were talking about.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.