Karl Rove's grandest aspiration was to create a Republican majority that would dominate American politics for a generation or more. But as the effects of his distinctive brand of fear-mongering fade, it's the Democrats who are poised to become the country's majority party -- and perhaps for a long time to come.
Many conservatives have insisted that the Democrats' wins in the 2006 midterm elections, as well as their recent pickups in some 2007 races, were mere blips. They wish. Political, ideological, demographic and economic trends are all leading toward durable Democratic majorities in Congress, control of most statehouses and, very possibly, the end of the decades-old GOP hammerlock on the electoral college.
This sea change is the result of the electorate's disenchantment with conservative Republicans, beginning in the 1990s. The old conservative majority, as given voice by Ronald Reagan and Newt Gingrich, sought to cut federal regulation, to privatize government operations and to slash social spending. But by late in Bill Clinton's presidency, broad public majorities had come to back environmental and consumer regulation, as well as significant new government spending on health care and education. As President Bush discovered in 2005, the public also disliked attempts to gut Social Security.
Moreover, much of the electorate had grown leery of the GOP's fervent identification with the religious right. As early as 1992, mainstream voters were turned off by Pat Buchanan's nasty, divisive "culture war" speech at the Republican National Convention. Attempts by religious conservatives to stop teaching evolution and funding human stem-cell research spurred a widespread backlash, even in states such as Kansas, which Democrats had given up for dead.
This dramatic shift in the public's outlook carried with it a change in the political makeup of the Republican and Democratic coalitions -- in a way that decisively helps Democrats. Even in conservatism's heyday, D