“In the process, he learned one thing: In a nation where roughly 20% describe themselves as liberal, 40% as conservative, and 40% as moderate, there’s not a high price for shutting out the left.” William McGurn, Bill Clinton’s Revenge, Wall St.J., Jan 25, 2010 <http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703808904575025620428520574.html?mod=wsj_share_facebook>.
Actually, Mr. McGurn understates the pervasiveness of Liberalism’s undoing. As Mr. McGurn points out, since the days of John F. Kennedy, no Northeastern Liberal has been elected President of the United States. Only two Democrats have been elected in the almost 50 years since Kennedy’s election, both (other than Pres. Obama) little known Southern Governors, one of them arguably the worst President in American history.
Gallop polls indicate that
“Thus far in 2009, 40% of Americans interviewed in national Gallup Poll surveys describe their political views as conservative, 35% as moderate, and 21% as liberal. This represents a slight increase for conservatism in the U.S. since 2008, returning it to a level last seen in 2004. The 21% calling themselves liberal is in line with findings throughout this decade, but is up from the 1990s.” <http://www.gallup.com/poll/120857/conservatives-single-largest-ideological-group.aspx>.
Thus a bit less than twice as many Americans see themselves as Conservatives than consider themselves Liberal. Even more importantly, a bit less than 80% of the populace consider themselves to NOT be liberals and this trend has held for nearly 20 years. A more complete rejection of an ideology is difficult to imagine.
Even more threatening to Liberals, there are now strong new voices in the GOP, such as Rep. Paul Ryan <http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703808904575025080017959478.html?mod=wsj_share_facebook> and Rep. Thad McCotter, whose commonsense, workable ideas on economic, regulatory and taxation reform appeal to moderates, who have learned in the last 15 years that, in the words of the great Milton Friedman, “There is no such thing as a free lunch.”
This is certainly true of government and, as Daniel Henninger wisely pointed out in his essay, The Fall of the House of Kennedy <http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704320104575015010515688120.html>, the Democratic Party has increasingly become the party of the entrenched bureaucracy, what I have called the Party of the Government, by the Government and for the Government. Given that the average salary in the private sector is about $35,000 per year (even with all those “evil” entrepreneurs in this census) and the average salary for a Federal employee is $71,000 per year, that plays badly with people who are trying to keep their jobs, their homes and their families feed in difficult times.
Moreover, the huge amount of money that the Wall Street Banks poured into Pres. Obama’s campaign and the subsequent bailout of AIG, which happened under Pres. Obama’s watch, certainly make ordinary people wonder if the Democrats are alligned with yet another cabal which seeks to batten on the public fisc.
This is brought home by the complete lack of regulatory reform in the last year.
Old style, pre-Reagan “tell people how to breathe” regulation is rightly consigned to the ashcan of history and should not be trotted out. However, regulation that fosters transparency, puts crime scene tape around patent conflicts of interest (as Glass-Steagle did) and which causes bright, ambitious people to temper enthusiasm with judgement is needed in an advanced commercial society. More proposals of this type (such as Rep. McCotter’s recent ones) are seen more often on the Right than the Left.
There was a time in American History when a sufficient consensus was reached that there was, in effect, one political party; the “Era of Good Feelings.” I think we are about to come into such an era now and the Democrats will, like the Federalists, pass into history after what is likely to be an historic rejection in the 2010 and 2012 elections.
Of course, a few years after the Era of Good Feelings the Whigs came out of disputes within the Democratic Party and the Republicans ultimately grew out of the Whigs. But events of that kind are at least a decade in the future.