The foundations of November's Republican victories in the South, and in Washington, are now familiar.
They were established in the 1960s by Barry Goldwater and Richard Nixon, with some help from George Wallace.
To cite just one example of this lineage: the far-right media empire of the late Dallas oilman H. Hunt from the '50s to the '70s anticipated the present-day conservative media network in many of its details.
Hunt's Facts Forum, for example, was a forerunner of the "The Rush Limbaugh Show" and the conservative National Empowerment Television. Hunt was subsidizing the Campus Crusade for Christ; and before Pat Robertson established the Christian Broadcasting Network, Hunt had founded life line, a nominally religious broadcasting and newspaper empire whose most influential officers, according to one historian, "were former FBI men and fundamentalist preachers." The complicity of contemporary conservatives like Rush Limbaugh, Jerry Falwell and the editors of The American Spectator in spreading crackpot conspiracy theories about Bill Clinton has a precedent, too, in the harsh attacks on Kennedy and Johnson subsidized by Hunt.
What's more, Republican gains in the South in the past generation have been offset by losses elsewhere.
The most striking changes have been in the Northeast and Midwest, the homelands of the Republican Party from Lincoln to Rockefeller.
When the new Republican Congress was sworn in last January, the South finally conquered Washington.
The defeated Democratic leadership had been almost exclusively from the Northeast, the Midwest and the Pacific Northwest, with Speaker Tom Foley of Washington, Majority Leader Dick Gephardt of Missouri and Majority Whip David Bonior of Michigan in the House, and, on the Senate side, Majority Leader George Mitchell from Maine.
Last November, the gains were particularly dramatic, from Texas, where George Bush Jr.
beat out Ann Richards, to Florida, where only the votes of elderly retirees (many from the Northeast) saved Democratic Governor Lawton Chiles from defeat at the hands of another Bush scion, Jeb.
Rather, independents have grown in numbers so that they now account for about a third of the electorate, forming a de facto third party of floating, alienated voters.