(This is a joint post by Douglas and Cato)
American liberalism died at 8:41pm EST on November 8, 2006.
It was at that time that the Associated Press called the U.S. Senate race in Virginia for Democratic nominee Jim Webb, giving the Democrats their 51st seat in Congress’s upper chamber and unified legislative control for the first time since 1992. This might seem a confusing time for liberalism to be dying, but it comes into focus a bit once you get below the partisan numbers. We will discuss this a little more later, but it makes sense to first discuss the long illness to which independent liberal politics in the United States eventually succumbed.
It was a slow death, one that began not long after the 1984 presidential election. Despite the electoral humiliation at the national level dealt to party nominee Walter Mondale, all was not lost for the Democratic Party. After all, they scored some victories in gubernatorial races, they still controlled the House of Representatives, and a 36-year old Congressman from Tennessee named Al Gore ascended to United States Senate. But for liberals within the party, the gig was up.