This Scott Rasmussen column
and this more elegant Ross Douthat column
are related to a point that is worth pondering by us, and worth acting on (after the ponder) by the Republicans. It is not silly to assert that the electoral victories that are coming tomorrow are not simple pro-Republican (although they are certainly anti-Democrat). This is worth noting because the GOP will now have to think and act as if they need to earn
Tuesday's votes. And they will do this by both taking actions (on health care, taxes, deficit, etc) that prove their serious purposes and by talking as the people talk; as Rasmussen says, the people want politicians in Washington "who understand that the American people want to govern themselves." Furthermore, the GOP certainly can't scoff at the people (the folks in the Tea Parties, for example) by saying they are overly fond of their God and their guns. They had better talk as if they were of
the people, instead of being their haughty rulers, else they will be ruled by the people soon enough. That this is both right
and in the interest
of the GOP is self-evident; if the GOP doesn't get this right, there will be a third party within a year, and this time it will get more than twenty percent of the vote (thinking of Perot in '92).
Anyway, it seems to me that Douthat's point--that the country's leftward momentum has reversed itself; that nearly 20 years of liberal gains have been erased in the last 20 months--is also important. The Dems' great mistake was to try to expand the size and scope and reach of the federal government during an economic downturn; this tactical mistake (as Douthat calls it) has gone way beyond a strategic mistake, and if the GOP can take advantage of it, it will have teleological consequences opening up the question of self-government itself. The people came to realize that the Republic was in danger, that the idea of self-government was about to perish from the earth. They are voting to stop this.
Douthat doesn't think the GOP will be prepared to wield power. I don't think this is the most important point. I think they are prepared to wield power, but they do not yet understand how this gift from the people has opened up an opportunity the like of which has not been seen in my lifetime. The GOP has to understand this, and also know that it is good that the Spirit of '76 has been raised, and it is up to the GOP to establish a rhetoric appropriate to this end. I don't mean a narrow partisan rhetoric, I mean a rhetoric that is worthy of the American cause, a rhetoric that is not only acceptable to those in the Tea Party, but also pulls in those who have not yet fully thought things through (i.e., a rhetoric that can shape a majority that will have the authority
to wield power). When the Republic is in a crisis there is a need for the kind of political evangelism
that will reveal once again how the salvation of man's earthly hopes is bound up in the American Republic. This rhetoric will have to prove that self-government is possible, it will prove that (in George Washington's words) the idea of civil and religious liberty yet lives, in short, that Americans are good enough to govern themselves.