The problem for Republicans after Tuesday’s election is that Americans are opposed to Big Government, but only at a high level of abstraction. Translating that general sentiment into specific program cuts that are popular, or even tolerated, is the hard part.
Oscar Wilde said that there are two kinds of tragic stories. One is about people who don’t get what they want, and the other is about people who do.
In November 2008 liberals got what they wanted, the clearest signal since 1964 that the nation’s voters were prepared to offer reliable, durable majorities to the advocates and practitioners of activist government.
In his post-election cover story for Time magazine, titled “The New Liberal Order,” Peter Beinart argued that Barack Obama had “an excellent chance” to establish “an era of liberal hegemony” because “taking aggressive action to stimulate the economy, regulate the financial industry and shore up the American welfare state won’t divide his political coalition; it will divide the other side.”
This week, conservatives got what they wanted, a firm declaration by the electorate that transforming our country into a European social democracy is an offer we can refuse. The question is whether sometime in 2011 the more numerous Capitol Hill Republicans are going to make some missteps, suffer some setbacks, and find themselves reading articles, as Democrats have been for the past year, about how they “over-interpreted their mandate.”
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