Jim Geraghty began his post-election Morning Jolt with a tone of considerable despair, calling the Republicans’ 2012 defeat “a much, much, much tougher loss than 2008.” He could more readily understand McCain’s loss given the near perfect storm environment four years ago, the Democratic victory made more sense.
And while I too was initially glum at the time Geraghty offered that assessment, the more I pore through election results and exit polls, the more I realize that, in terms of prospects for the GOP and conservative ideas, there are much more grounds for hope now than there was four years.
When, the course of the 2008 election, it became pretty evident that Barack Obama was going to win a strong majority, Michael Barone wonder if we were seeing another inflection point in American history, with Americans rejecting the smaller government consensus building from the 1970s through the 1990s:
The protracted and painful experiences of those decades changed basic public attitudes on the balance between government and markets, between regulation and enterprise, between government-aid programs and self-reliance The breadlines and depression of the 1930s moved Americans in one direction; the gas lines and stagflation of the 1970s moved them in the other.
Which raises the question of whether the financial ructions of 2007-08 (09?) will move them back again. One reason to believe this is possible is the passage of time. Americans in the 1980s and 1990s were ready to accept deregulation and tax cuts and welfare reform because so few of them had personal memories of the 1930s.
Indeed, exit polls in 2008 showed that over half of Americans surveyed “wanted government to do more to intervene while 43 percent said it was doing too many things better left to businesses.”
This year, however, “those numbers have flipped.” Four years ago, it could be said that the American people favored bigger government, but today, even in an electorate more Democratic than that in 2010, there is clearly a consensus for smaller government.
In 2008, there was a sense that big-government ideas were ascendant. Today, there is no such sense.
Indeed, if 2008 were an inflection point, Democrats would have (at least) held the ground they gained that year. But, at the federal legislative level, they are far behind were they were four years ago — and even further behind at the state level.
We have have lost the battle earlier this week, but the political landscape still favors the GOP. Republicans just need find a better way to exploit the battlefield. (More on this in a post later today.)