"Where are our plans for a New Deal or a Great Society?" asked Edward W. Brooke, the legendary Massachusetts Republican.Read the rest here.
It's not a question anyone in today's Republican Party would dare get caught even considering, but Brooke had the temerity to raise it in "The Challenge of Change," a book published in 1966, the year he became the first African American elected to the U.S. Senate since Reconstruction.
The midterm election that year was very good for Republicans in general, including a Californian named Ronald Reagan. But it was an especially fine year for moderate and progressive Republicans of the Brooke stripe across the Northeast. Their prizes included governorships in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York and Pennsylvania.
In 2010, Republicans run away in horror at the prospect of being called moderate, let alone progressive, and that is an obstacle in the GOP's path to a congressional majority. It will be very hard for Republicans to take the House if they don't break the Democrats' power in the Northeast -- and they still have to prove they can do that.
"When we do retain the majority," said Rep. Dan Maffei, a hopeful 42-year-old freshman Democrat from Upstate New York, "people are going to look at the map and see that the Northeast held." In 2006, Maffei ran and lost narrowly in what had been a Republican-leaning district. He then won handily in 2008. Like most freshman and sophomore Democrats, he assumed this year would not be kind to his party, so he's been campaigning hard ever since. The result: Absent a Republican wave of historic proportions, his seat now seems out of the GOP's reach.
While I agree that gaining seats in the N-E would make retaking the House of Representatives easier, I don't think it's essential. If the GOP wins by landslide margins in the South and the traditionally more conservative areas in "fly-over" country they can take the House. The question is, can the Democrats hope to hold the House by just hanging onto the liberal North-East and the Left Coast? Recall they retook Congress from the GOP in part by expanding their support into traditionally conservative states. They did not take the House or Senate in 2008 by increasing their majorities in the N-E. If they loose the seats they gained in the South and elsewhere they are in trouble.
Another point worth considering; in 1966 while the GOP did rather well in the N-E they did not break the Democrats grip on the House. It would not be until 1994 that the GOP would finally end the Democratic Party's multi-generational lock on the House of Representatives. I think Democrats who are counting on New York and New England to stem the GOP tide are grasping at straws.