With the start of a new year, a slightly more liberal Congress convened on Capitol Hill. Later this month, after his inauguration, Ronald Reagan will embark on a second term as President.

Observers will be watching closely to see whether November’s election proved that Republicans have a lock on the White House, or merely that a popular Republican temporarily holds the key. There is evidence to support both views.

Republicans have won four of the last five presidential elections, with a cumulative lead of 44 million votes. They carried 169 states to the Democrats’ 21 in those elections, receiving 82.4 percent of the electoral votes. The Republican party’s vision of America appealed to more women, young voters, immigrants, and working-class people last year than anyone dreamed possible.

Reagan won more popular votes than any other President—more than 53 million—and a record 525 electoral votes. (The President who came closest to this achievement was Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who won 523 electoral votes in 1936, when there were 48 states.) However, Republican victories in Congress fell short of the party’s hopes, failing to place Reagan firmly in the driver’s seat. Meanwhile, a throng of contenders for the 1988 presidential nomination already is taking shape, casting the Republican party’s future onto the unsettling variables of ideology, personality, and political maneuvering.

The make-up of the Ninety-ninth Congress notwithstanding, the President is entitled to assume a personal mandate from the 1984 election results. And in light of transcendent values in American society, his landslide victory represents more than the personal triumph of a popular President. In several congressional ...

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