Jay Cost's writings on the statistics of politics (first for Real Clear Politics and now for the Weekly Standard) are the best single commentaries we have the horse races called elections. They are required reading if you want to bet on politics or have any idea which politicians are likely to be the most important members of what Mark Twain called America's only "native criminal class" - i.e. the Federal government.

So, I was thrilled to see that Mr. Cost had written a long piece for the National Review on "The Republican Challenge".

Alas, it seems you can take the man out of political science graduate school but you can't take the political science graduate out of the man. Mr. Cost's narration of the history of the Republican party is not awful, but it repeats the fiction that Karl Rove authored - that the modern Republican Party was established by William McKinley. That is simply not true, and Mr. Cost knows better. After the Civil War the Republicans were as much of a minority party as they were in the 1930s. They had barely half the electorate in the North and less than a third in the South even with extension of the franchise to former slaves. Yet, by 1872, they held a majority of the seats in Congress, even with the readmission of the Confederate States AND the increasing disqualification of black-skinned voters in the South (and elsewhere). The Republicans lost badly after the Panic of 1873; but it took them only 5 years after the greatest Depression of the 19th century to regain control of the House. From then on, the 2 parties were equal. And, when the Democrats had their turn to be the party in power during a financial panic - 1893, they suffered a defeat that kept them permanently in the minority until Champ Clark won the speakership in 1910. The majority McKinley enjoyed was not created by him but inherited, together with the Republican's good fortune to have been out of power when the Panic of 1893 hit.

The "Challenge" for the Republicans is to go much further back - to the party of Grant and Keifer and Reed .


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