Refine & Enlarge
As usual, George Will nails it in today's column: "It is amazing the ingenuity Democrats invest in concocting explanations of voter behavior that erase what voters always care about, and this year more than ever - ideas. This election was a nationwide recoil against Barack Obama's idea of unlimited government."
Dear Preacher Will, We Hear You. Sincerely, The Choir.
At the same time, as NLT readers nod approvingly at Will's analysis, we must contend with the counter-narrative, which Will decimates by implication but which inevitably will gain traction in the coming days. All the usual suspects--White House, DNC, MSNBC, etc.--will be hard at work pushing their own interpretation of Tuesday's results. The election was about the economy, they'll say. It was about jobs. It was--as Peter Schramm noted in reference to Tim Kaine--about a collective lament that "change has not happened fast enough." History never actually repeats itself, or so I tell my students, but this last line conjures memories of Bill Clinton's '94 mid-term post-mortem: the voters have spoken, he said at the time, and their message is clear: "Move faster!"
None of this is surprising, of course. To the progressive mind, the obvious convenience of interpretations that dismiss electoral misfortune as the product of politically-radioactive conditions--unemployment, slow growth, etc--is that those interpretations help shelter progressive ideas from the fallout of a historic political thrashing. Still, the Left's near-monopoly over the dissemination of information and opinion guarantees it an enormous advantage in the battle to define the meaning of Election 2010. Furthermore, the economy is bad, and no doubt it was an issue for many voters.
Republicans, in short, now face the rhetorical challenge of periodically (I prefer daily, but I'll take what I can get) highlighting their chasmic differences with progressive ideologues while also working to ameliorate lousy economic conditions. In my view, Republican leaders will meet this challenge in part through unwavering and unapologetic commitment to a narrative that treats as self-evident the symbiotic relationship between a robust economy and a limited, constitutional government. In the end, though, as Will reminds us with characteristic elegance, one cannot escape the conclusion--no matter how the opposition chooses to rationize it--that Tuesday's results reveal something deeper, something we've recognized all along as more thoughtful and more visceral: a "recoil" against progressive-style government the likes of which we've not seen in more than a generation.