Some conservatives have rightly questioned whether, after the November elections, they should expect to be disappointed by the new GOP majority(ies?). I hesitate to say we shouldn't ask that question because I remember being young and very excited about the elections in 1994--only to slowly watch my enthusiasm drip away. It is true that there is an undeniable tendency for members of Congress and the Senate to "go native." People rather thought that because the freshmen class of 1994 was so large, there would be a bulwark against that tendency. In retrospect, it seems that it was not large enough.
Maybe I'm just not old enough to know better than to be more hopeful this time, but I'll venture my reasons for my optimism anyway. In the first place, the candidates. Take a look, for example, at this op-ed written by Teresa Collett
, candidate for Minnesota's 4th Congressional District. She is not merely spouting off a laundry list of to-do items for when she lands the seat--she's talking about a fundamental shift in the way people view government. She's talking about an understanding of rights and of popular sentiment and of the sovereignty of the people under law. This is not your father's Republican party.
In the second place, as Collett notes, Republicans are finally getting around to remembering and articulating their roots and how those differ from the Democrats. That's important because it shows that Republicans no longer understand themselves as merely representing a different collection of interests than those represented by the Democrats. They understand themselves to be offering a completely different understanding of liberty. And now, they mean to defend it. "While the Democrats still believe government is the source of liberty,
most Republicans finally have remembered that liberty is the natural
right of the people, not a gift from government," Collett says.
Finally, Collett makes note of Obama's and the Democrats' annoyance with Americans for their inclination now to "stand up"--as she calls it--and demand that their government respect their liberty. I am, in the end, most optimistic because I am so encouraged by this movement of the people. The Tea Party--or whatever we want to call this mass swing in public opinion and engagement--is something to behold. That it has continued to take hold and grow, as it has done, is remarkable to me. If there are parts of it that are sometimes unwieldy, that almost makes me even more encouraged because it demonstrates how genuine and grass-roots it really is. It's not--as was the Obama wave--a top down following of hypnotized robots grasping at undefined and undefinable platitudes. This actually means something. People want a smaller, more responsible, less bumbling, and--above all--more Constitutional government that respects their sovereignty. They don't want this merely because some messiah has come to tell them they ought to want it. They want it because they have seen and felt what it means to live under the opposite. They've had enough.
I think it is going to take a very long time for the Democrats to undo what their over-reaching and hubris have done. And I think it will be an equally long time before the usual suspects will be comfortable with their default positions of power within the GOP. A great many of the old guard and those new guys who wanted to join them, are going to find themselves having to answer to a different master. There will be homework, as some teachers might say. I am smiling.