A Vote Against Government
Understanding the midterm elections
If you're not angry, you haven't been paying attention. I first saw that astute proverb on a bumper sticker in the days when directing anger at your government was still a principled calling, dissent was patriotic, and Rumsfelds roamed the earth.
Across the country, the electorate laid down a resounding angry vote against activist government. And, mind you, no one had to wrestle with any ambiguity about the objectives of the Republicans. Democrats helpfully hammered home the newfound libertarian extremism of the GOP, and Republicans typically embraced the label.
Exit polls showed that this election was a rejection of the progressive agenda of "stimulus," of Obamacare, of cap and trade. Exit polls showed that there was great anger with government—not government that didn't work or government that didn't do enough, but government that didn't know its place. Some Senate seats that Republicans lost were to Democrats who sounded more conservative than their opponents.
Smart people will almost certainly pontificate about the end of the purist days when public servants were respected and government was creating jobs. All, of course, imagined. They will lament the irrational angst. They couldn't help themselves but to continue to mock and deride their ideological opponents.
The right wing—and I learned this from much of the news coverage—came out in droves with a predisposed aversion to change; it was paranoid, suspicious, uneasy, and unhinged, or in other words, it had the appropriate attitude for the times. This, laments the enlightened man, means gridlock exactly when we need government most—which, let's face it, according to the left, is always.
But now there's hope.
Typically, victorious candidates will talk about how they look forward to working with the other party for the benefit of America. Harrumph. This time around, newly elected senators told the body to "Deliberate on this!"—to pound sand until they respect "limited constitutional government." Sounds right, at least for a night.
Impressive victories by Marco Rubio and Rand Paul—added to others, such as that of Chris Christie—are going to make life far more difficult for Democrats than the pliable get-along types Democrats were used to dealing with in years past. They may even keep their words.
Then again, I'm no Pollyanna. No election is as significant as the victors would like to believe. And, as W.C. Fields once said, "hell, I never vote for anybody; I always vote against."
Everyone remembers that only two years ago, the world looked dramatically different. The Obama cult was just kicking into gear. Forever majorities were being solidified. And two years from now, chances are that we may be similarly surprised and disappointed.
In many ways, in fact, 2012 portends to be a more consequential year, in which either the country continues to trend in the direction of limited government ideals or the massive bureaucratic institutions built in the past two years will be cemented for the long run.
No matter what happens, for now, we can look forward to two glorious years of hyper-partisan, acrimonious gridlock—Washington's most moral and productive state.
David Harsanyi is a columnist at The Denver Post and the author of Nanny State. Visit his website at www.DavidHarsanyi.com.
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