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HERE'S Murray Kempton, writing in The New...


HERE'S Murray Kempton, writing in The New York Review of Books just before last November's elections:

"The Democratic hegemony over both houses of Congress has been broken but twice in the last 42 years and only when a Democrat tenanted the White House. Harry Truman was president when Dwight Eisenhower brought in a Republican Senate in 1952; and Ronald Reagan doubly blessed his party with Jimmy Carter's defeat and a Republican majority of the Senate.

"The rule thus appears to ordain control of the Congress by the Democrats when the president is a Republican and withdraw it only when the president is a Democrat. The logical inference would be that the congressional Democrats owe their present agonies to the misfortune of President Clinton's election.

" . . . But congressional Democrats are invulnerable when they are the party of opposition. They aren't stuck with the defects of the sitting executive; they can cry up the woes of the cheated and promise to remedy them as soon as they get the chance. Sometimes they have the bad luck of getting the chance and suffering the inevitable collapse of promises unrealizable if only because so little felt anyway.

"To be a congressional Democrat is to know no affliction more horrid than to have a Democratic president install himself and set about showing the party up. That is an irony no doubt cruel; but such is the way with too many laws of history."

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