Conservative humorist P.J. O'Rourke once said of Republicans, they are "the party that says government doesn't work and then they get elected and prove it."

O'Rourke's observation may prove to be the most cogent rationale for a Republican victory in November.

If tradition holds, Democrats will lose seats in the midterm elections. In the previous 21 midterm elections the party of the president has lost on average 30 seats in the House of Representatives and seats in the Senate.

In 2010, Democrats lost 63 seats in the House and six Senate seats. According to the most recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, only 25 percent feel the country is headed in the right direction.

Moreover, if the election were held today, based on polling, Republicans would maintain their advantage in the House and pick up enough seats in the Senate to recapture the majority.

The combination of history and public sentiment would suggest Republicans have good reason to salivate about their prospects in November. But these are interesting times that could provide an exception to what has been the expected outcome.

This by no means represents a bold contrarian prediction of Democrat success in November. It does, however, prompt the question: Do Republicans warrant being the majority party in both houses of Congress?

History would most likely respond to that question in the affirmative, but actuality may dictate something different.


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In February, the tea party movement celebrated its fifth anniversary. What began as a populist quasi-libertarian movement concerned with the nation's debt, deficit, spending and taxes has become a key element to the GOP's political fortunes. Without tea party insurgence, the Republican Party could be dangerously close to rubbing shoulders with the Whigs.

Rarely in American history has a populist effort become so entrenched in a major political party. But the tea party's impressive victory in 2010 has been offset by the inability to govern.

The characteristics that make for effective activism are not necessarily tools for governing. One cannot govern by the simplistic catchphrases of the campaign trail.

So certain of their ideological purity, tea party members in Congress have been infected by an arrogance that defines compromise as a pejorative. As a result, shutting down the government or playing chicken with raising the debt ceiling felt like viable political alternatives rather than the irresponsible acts that they were.

Echoing the words of John F. Kennedy, the tea party enjoys the "comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought."

Though there has been a noticeable internal pushback against some tea party candidates during the recent primaries, the Republican orthodoxy, influenced by the tea party, has moved in the direction reminiscent of Hezbollah, which means "Party of God."

I am not insinuating there is a linear comparison between the GOP and the Shiite Islamist militant group, but if one identifies as the "Party of God," have they not insulated themselves from the need to compromise?

Haven't Republicans, due to tea party influence, sequestered themselves philosophically in a similar manner?

Using the rules of the Senate, Republicans have succeeded in blocking more of President Barack Obama's judicial nominations than the combined total of his predecessors. Elections have consequences; at least they should, but not in the current GOP world.

Should the keys of both houses of Congress be given to a party void of new ideas that reflect a changing America, offer the same policies that led to arguably the most catastrophic economic decline since the Great Depression, are systematically against all things supported by the president, along with orchestrating a government shutdown?

If the answer were yes, then Republicans would have succeeded by taking a macabre path to victory. But politics, like the NFL, is a copycat enterprise. For those who back the current Republican modus operandi, the litmus for that support is not when your side benefits, but when it is done against you.

Byron Williams is a contributing columnist. Contact him at 510-208-6417 or byron@byronspeaks.com.