After Republicans' lousy spring, expect a typically dismal summer for Democrats

Not long after Labor Day in '88, Dukakis played Army man, dooming any serious challenge to four more years of a Republican presidency.
Not long after Labor Day in '88, Dukakis played Army man, dooming any serious challenge to four more years of a Republican presidency. (Tracy Baker/united Press International)
By Al Kamen
Friday, March 26, 2010

This spring has not been kind to conservative activists. After their brilliant campaign to cast the Democratic health-care bill as a death sentence on Grandma, the rebirth of Stalin and the end of freedom, the legislation actually passed.

Now the GOP and the furious tea partiers are in disarray, offending folks with racist and homophobic epithets amid reports of threats and vandalism against some Democrats. There's also a rear-guard battle to undo the loss. But a repeal simply isn't going to happen. And the courts -- though you can never count the Supremes out -- aren't likely to upend it.

Worse, the legislative agenda -- next up is a Democratic bill to rein in the evildoers and fat cats on Wall Street and at the banks -- may prove tricky for the GOP to handle. (We usually love Grandma, not Bernie Madoff.)

Still, there is no reason to worry. History shows time is on the conservatives' side. Sure, the movement may have peaked a bit soon, but there's more than enough time to relax, regroup, strategize about November and, most important, wait for summer.

That's when the Democrats, creatures of habit and tradition, take off for home vacations or to their watery places -- Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard or the Hamptons -- and abandon the political field till well after Labor Day. If spring isn't good for conservatives, the summer heat is devastating for libs.

Take, for example, last summer, when the tea partiers got their operation in gear at the usually dull town hall meetings with lawmakers, berating them for supporting those death panels.

President Obama, meanwhile, was at a Vineyard estate as Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) spent his time working to get support for the health bill from Republican Sens. Charles Grassley (Iowa) and Mike Enzi (Wyo.). (Came that close!)

In August 1998, President Bill Clinton delivered his historic televised apology about Monica Lewinsky and quickly repaired to the Vineyard with his family as impeachment loomed a few months later.

Some Democrats recover their equilibrium by Labor Day. Others don't. Vice President Al Gore, eyeing a 2000 presidential run, spent the holiday weekend in Seattle in 1998 courting the AFL-CIO. But as the nominee in 2004, Sen. John Kerry (Mass.) was windsurfing off Nantucket.

In 1988, Vice President George H.W. Bush and Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis were vying to succeed President Ronald Reagan. Then, in mid-September, Dukakis hopped into a military tank for a photo op. Race over.

Okay? So plenty of time to regain momentum and unity, count on the August swoon, and cruise into November.

Dodgeball, anyone?

Congress is taking off for its spring break, and there's still no final word on whether the president is going to use his powers to make recess appointments. (The odds are leaning that there will be some.) And there are increasing signs that such an appointment may be in the offing for National Labor Relations Board nominee Craig Becker, a union labor lawyer.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2010 The Washington Post Company