Democratic policies don’t wear well with the public. History tells us as much. The last three Democratic sweeps (control of the White House and Congress) have been followed quickly by the unraveling of the Democrats’ winning coalition, a backlash against liberal overreach and finally replacement by a reenergized Republican Party.
1964: President Lyndon Johnson brought in huge majorities of Senate and House Democrats in the second biggest popular vote landslide ever.
President Johnson quickly ramped up domestic federal spending with his “Great Society” program featuring the War on Poverty, Model Cities and Job Corps as well as new entitlements Medicare and Medicaid.
Unfortunately, Johnson also chose to escalate the Vietnam War leading to huge strains on the federal budget.
An income tax “surcharge” was imposed and spending soared. The economy overheated causing high inflation and unemployment that lasted throughout the 1970s.
Republicans made a huge comeback in the 1966 Congressional elections.
In 1968, Johnson declined to seek reelection and his substitute, Vice President Hubert Humphrey, won only 40% of the vote in a three-way race and lost the presidency to Richard Nixon.
1976: Building on the huge Watergate majorities of 1974, the methodical Jimmy Carter ousted Republican Gerald Ford and once again the Democrats laid claim to all of the national government.
President Carter pushed energy rationing, alternative fuels development and a “windfall profit tax” just as the economy was heading into recession. Inflation and interest rates soared into double digits, creating truly the worst economy since the Great Depression.
President Carter’s inability to handle foreign policy crises in Afghanistan and the Iran hostage crisis contributed to his image of indecisiveness.
Republicans made major gains in the 1978 midterm elections and in 1980 President Carter lost by an overwhelming margin to Ronald Reagan. Republicans also won control of the Senate for the first time in 26 years.
1992: Bill Clinton led a Democratic sweep ousting President George H.W. Bush and winning strong Democratic majorities in Congress.
Contrary to popular myth, Clinton inherited an economy just emerging from recession, but nearly squandered that by pushing a tax increase his first year in office. (Note: Do you detect a pattern here?) He followed the tax increase with an attempt to take over the health care system, quickly dubbed "Hillarycare," which failed in the Democratic Congress.
With economic growth flat, Democrats lost their majorities in both the House and Senate in the 1994 elections.
Always the agile politician, President Clinton abandoned the Democratic left, returned to his moderate roots, managing to control spending, signing Welfare Reform among other measures, and won reelection handily in 1996.
However, he was forced to deal with Republican congressional majorities for the balance of his term.
The lesson is clear: Democratic federal domination leads to excessive reliance on the party’s liberal base and policy overreach especially in tax, spending and energy matters, resulting in a backlash from the public that quickly trims or eliminates Democratic congressional majorities and turns the president out of office.
This president especially seems out of touch with the concerns of many who supported him. In addition to record deficits, higher taxes and low economic growth, the latest example is his favorable comments about the mosque slated for construction at Ground Zero in New York. It is unclear why he felt compelled to lecture the American people on an issue where the federal government has no role or responsibility.
If you want to know what has already happened and will happen to President Obama’s Democrats this year, just check the the history books.
Frank Donatelli is Chairman of GOPAC, the center for training and electing the next generation of Republican leaders.
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