A few days back, a group of overly ambitious tourist entrepreneurs on the shores of the Sea of Azov decided to promote the pleasures of parasailing by attaching a harness to a donkey and launching it into the sky. The donkey spent the longest half hour of its life levitating over the heads of the astonished crowd before it descended flailing and terrified into the sea, barely surviving its rescue. “Another emblem there!” as the poet William Butler Yeats wrote. “Aww, poor donkey,” as Shrek might have said.
For perhaps a year or two the Democratic mascot did considerably better than its parasailing counterpart, wafting triumphantly over the political landscape and looking almost aerodynamic. This was not to last. Following Obama’s impressive victory in the 2008 presidential election, coupled with control of both Congress and Senate, the Democratic Party succumbed to the besetting vice of political culture, namely, hubris, convinced that it was destined for perpetual glory and would dominate American political life for generations to come. It could not lose. It could do no wrong. Its agenda was unassailable. It was not accountable to the electorate since it represented the future. Clearly, the iconic donkey was flying high and gave every indication of intending to stay aloft. Republicans could only gaze upward in rueful wonder and paralyzing resignation.
But things are changing dramatically. True, the Republican Party appears somewhat disheveled and has certainly suffered its share of disreputable characters, problematic candidates, political scandals, and poor strategizing. It still needs to get its act together, but happily is not in as bad a shape as it once was. The Democrats in their present incarnation, however, have grown so debauched with power and so fiscally reprobate that Nemesis has plainly decided to send them hurtling back to earth.