Here's my theory of GOP governance and its 12-year life cycle. It was prompted by my study of Carey McWilliams, who watched with disappointment as Republicans took over Congress in 1946. They immediately went after their enemies and ruined many lives. Within six years, a Republican occupied the White House, too, partly because the Dems decided to run a candidate who came off like a brainy stiff--twice. The GOP continued to scare the bejeezus out of everyone for another six years and then folded under the weight of its own accusations and do-nothingness in 1958.
Sound familiar? Republicans took over Congress in 1994 and began persecuting their enemies, including a sitting Democratic president. Six years later, they installed their own guy in the White House, but he was no Eisenhower, and the truly crazy stuff started in earnest. Now, six years later, most of us have had enough. If the historical analogy holds, the Democrats will win the White House narrowly in 2008 by running a liberal who believes in a strong defense. And in his parting speech, Bush will warn us about the military-industrial complex.
Why do the wheels fall off for the Republicans after 12 years? I think it's because they don't really believe in governing, if by that we mean running programs to promote the general welfare. And at a certain point, most taxpayers notice that they're not getting anything in exchange for the money they send to Washington. It's the old John Burton maxim of politics: I give you a dollar, you give me a hot dog. But the GOP has mostly delivered a steady diet of fear--along with sermons about why we shouldn't want any hot dogs. So when we hear that the federal government is sending 250 million hot dogs a day to Iraq, and that the CEO of Halliburton took home 47 million hot dogs in 2004, we start to wonder.