One of the truest adages in politics–Bad things happen to Republicans when conservatives are unhappy–came true again last night.
Republicans lost the White House last night, to the most unfit President-elect in modern memory, an inexperienced leftist with links to thieves, lunatics, and terrorists. They lost a couple dozen seats in the House of Representatives, unable to defeat even John Murtha, who called his own constituents racists and rednecks. They lost seats in the Senate, and, as of this writing, might not even have been able to beat as big a nutcase as Al Franken.
My home state of Virginia voted for the Democrat presidential candidate, something that was unthinkable just eight years ago. Virginia also elected a Democrat Senator to replace a Republican; come January, both my Senators will be Democrats. And my Congressional district re-elected Democrat Jim Moran, an ill-tempered buffoon.
Around the country, conservatism fared much better than Republicans did. Ballot initiatives are always the truest measure of voters’ issue preferences, because they are issue-specific and less vulnerable to the vicissitudes of personality. And conservatism won on ballot propositions across the country. As patronizing pundits were tearily congratulating America for electing her first (half-)black President, Nebraska voters approved a ban on affirmative discrimination. As battleground Colorado fell to the Redistributor-elect, voters there rejected all four tax hikes. And even in loony-blue California, a ban on “gay marriage” appears to have passed.
Voters didn’t reject Republicans because they reject conservatism; voters rejected Republicans because they no longer trust Republicans to uphold conservatism. And there’s no reason why they should.
Polls show that voters actually trust Democrats more than Republicans to lower taxes and spur economic growth. And the economy was the issue that dominated the national discourse for the past couple of months. First came Bush XLIII’s outrageous bail-out, a $700-Billion wealth redistribution scheme properly hated by the people. If John McCain had lived up to his claims of not running for XLIII’s third term by bucking the President and opposing the bail-out, he might have won last night.
Second came Joe the Plumber, an ordinary American, living the dream of buying his own business, whose hard-earned wealth Barack Obama wants to “spread around”. Joe’s plight resonated with millions of Americans, Americans who are tired of working hard to bail out those who don’t.
The economic conversation of the last two months has made it crystal clear that, after 70 years of New Deal policies, after 40 years of Great Society policies, Americans are rejecting wealth redistribution. And that is the best news of the year.
That doesn’t mean that the next couple of years are going to be pleasant or prosperous. They aren’t. The leftist sweep of Congress and the Presidency is a short-term disaster for America and the world, but, if conservatives work hard to rebuild, we can begin to regain, as early as next year’s state elections here in Virginia, and in the Congressional elections of 2010, and we should be in good shape to take back the White House in 2012.
The next couple of years will provide an important, albeit very expensive, object lesson. The wealth-spreading of the next two years will show America and the world the rotten moral and economic fruit that such resentment-based plunder yields.
But will the people get it? Or will they see the economic devastation and conclude that what we need is more socialism?
That, my fellow conservatives, depends on us. We enter this national nightmare with considerable strengths on our side. Reality, common sense, and the natural affinity for justice are all on our side. And the intellectual foundation we need to make our case has been in place for decades. We don’t have to conduct empirical studies, or invent whole new economic analyses. It’s been proved over and over again: Economic freedom fosters prosperity; wealth redistribution yields recession, even depression. And so, over the next couple of years, when socialist policies are floated, we need to point out how people have been hurt by such policies in the past. And when they pass anyway, we need to tie their inevitably bad results to the principles they have violated.
In the process, we can recover what has been so tragically lost over the last 20 years: an understanding of the principles that undergird the world that is deep enough and solid enough to strengthen us against the temptation of the short-term false comfort of government molly-coddling. Ronald Reagan had that understanding. But the failure of his successors to demonstrate it has squandered the legacy of prosperity that he left us. When a Republican president says, in effect, “Well, I really really really believe in the free market, but the taxpayers need to cough up $700 Billion so the government can bail out irresponsible banks and borrowers or some scary stuff is gonna happen, and it’s gonna happen so fast that we don’t have time to consider market-based solutions that might actually correct some of the root causes of our economic woes”, the obvious reality is that the president not only doesn’t really believe in the free market, but that he doesn’t even understand it. And the collaborators in Congress obviously don’t understand it either.
That’s why the sweep is a blessing, a harsh one, no doubt, but sometimes that’s the only kind that works. For 20 years, conservatives have been carrying water for Republicans who don’t get it, hoping for a dollop of porridge here and there. Now they’ve been unequivocally booted, and we can start over, better off without them.
The sun has set on the era of big-government Republicanism. And yes, we are entering a period of darkness. But we can bring morning back to America.
Let’s get to work.