I think that this election actually harks back to those of the mid 1850's when the Whig party turned to dust and in the space of 3 election cycles, the Republican Party captured the presidency for most of 50 years.
The New York Times has written, in explaining why the political parties have lost the confidence of the public: "Their machinery of intrigue, their shuffling evasions, the dodges, the chicanery and the deception of their leaders have excited universal disgust, and have created a general readiness in the public mind for any new organization that shall promise to shun their vices." The New York Evening Post, in explaining the same condition, has written that the people "saw parties without any ... difference contending for power, for the sake of power. They saw politics made a profession, and public plunder an employment ... They beheld our public works the plaything of a rotten dynasty, enriching gamblers, and purchasing power at our expense." The dates of those articles were November and December 1855 (See "The Origins of the Republican Party" by William E. Gienapp, Oxford University Press, 1987, page 98.) [emphasis is mine, ed.]Those words could have been written last week, not 160 years ago. The leadership of the Grand Old Party only pays lip-service to the traditional issues of smaller government, fiscal responsibility and cultural issues. The present leadership were in place during the period of 2002-2006 when they spent at what was then thought of as "drunken sailors" spending their accumulated pay in a binge of drunken debauchery.
While they have been proven to be mere amateurs at dispensing the public fisc, they too have a significant share of the debt that has been amassed in the past 10 years.
But the GOP challenge will be two-fold if they win the House or Senate: 1) They must present a 10-year budget resolution that deals realistically with the unsustainable deficit and tax policies. If they use the usual bipartisan accounting tricks and other Washington policy dodges, their tea party electors will (and should) be powerfully driven toward a third party in 2012. (2) Like the Whigs, they can't rely on the great national issues driving the public perceptions. They will have to avoid letting unlikely tangential issues drive the Washington story. Strange issues have a way of jumping up -- e.g., air traffic controller strike in 1981; gays in the military, 1993; Bay of Pigs, 1961.If the GOP leadership plays "politics as usual" and doesn't actually do what they were elected to do, and this means, roll back the size and scope of government, reduce taxation and spending levels significantly and restrain this out of control President, then they will see a 3rd party challenge in 2012, and will probably be reduced to the periphery in 2016. The GOP base is pissed and the Tea Party Movement is the embodiment of that anger. The fact that the Tea Party Movement is seen positively by most independents bodes ill for bot the GOP and the Democratic Party in the long run.