These are my unscientific thoughts about the election this week. I think that the American public moved from being concerned with questions of terrorism after 9-11 to economic concerns in 2006. Also, the way that we were railroaded into going to war with Iraq rankled many people and the perpetual duration and costs of the wars made people sick. [note that we don’t see any anti-war protests now that the Democrats are in charge of the nation]
We had the dot com blowup followed by the Enron scandals and 9-11, but the economy seemed to normalize only to see the housing bubble collapse starting in 2005 and reaching full force in 2008. Rather than rein in government spending or do anything like reduce the scope of government, President Bush expanded government massively via things like the Homeland Security Agency and new intelligence directorates all over the place. Spending skyrocketed and the wars seemed endless and hopeless. Home equity was plunging and people felt despair. Despite all of this, McCain was neck and neck with Obama until the Lehman Brothers collapse and the panic it induced. People voted for a cipher – President Obama – in hopes that he would end the wars, fix the economy, somehow make Washington a paragon of openness and virtue, stop global warming and other magical and wonderful things. The voters rejected the Republicans as hypocrites and took out their vengeance for bad economic times on them. What they did not do, by and large, was endorse the Democratic agenda of a large welfare state, unlimited abortion and other radical notions. Many GOP voters probably stayed home in 2008 out of anger or disgust.
The Democrats, however, interpreted the results as a sweeping wave that affirmed their agenda and was ushering in a new Rooseveltian or Great Society vision of the country. As George Will wrote, all they were in 2008 was “not George Bush.” The Democrats assumptions of generational and demographic realignment were wrong.
Now it is 2010. The economy is still in tatters, the wars continue, Washington is the same as it ever was and housing is still a shambles. Additionally, we have had trillions of dollars in debt added to our system and many feel that we teeter on the edge of a total financial collapse in the next decade or two. So, voters put a lot of the insiders out on their ear and shook things up again. Republicans should not interpret this as the nation turning to Constitutional originalism, small government, Laffer-curve, pro-life policies. I see it more as inchoate rage and frustration, coupled with the idea on the part of many middle class and lower class whites that the government is growing beyond control and that the Christian values of our past are forcibly derided on the part of the overclass. I don’t know how blacks and Hispanics feel about the government, but I surmise that many blacks expected something from President Obama and haven’t seen it.
Until the economy improves and uncertainty fades, I don’t see either party lasting in power for long periods of time. Fundamentally, our economic pattern of massive debt, fiat currency and unfunded entitlements seems doomed. Defense spending cannot be sustained at its current levels. The morals of our institutions are out of whack with what many profess to believe. This will make for continual turmoil in our nation as far as I can tell, and I also don’t expect the new wave of GOP legislators to achieve much.
My two cents.