My thoughts on this start with education policy but is more general: Whether elected Republican officials can reverse a slew of Obama administration policies may depend on whether each policy area is more like a pendulum or more like a ratchet. Elite Republicans hope that by the end of 2018, federal health care, environmental, tax, and financial-regulation policies will look like a pendulum that rapidly swung towards extreme conservative policies after this election.
In contrast, former President Obama and liberals hope that in their priority areas, current federal policy acts more like a ratchet, with teeth and a pawl that block reverses and slippage.
The pendulum and the ratchet in education policy
Neither metaphor is going to be true in all areas; the critical question is where policy is more like a pendulum or more like a ratchet. Twenty years ago in their book Tinkering toward Utopia, David Tyack and Larry Cuban argued that education reform witnessed cycles of reform rhetoric in counterpoint with long-term institutional trends. Tyack and Cuban explained that at a superficial level, the rhetoric of education reform appeared much like a pendulum: “Watchwords shifted in different times from excellence to equality, efficiency to empathy, unity to pluralism–and then back again” (p. 44).