Thursday, November 6, 2008

Finding the Pony

George F. Will takes the lessons of Tuesday to heart but assures disconsolate Republicans that they can come back, even as they did after the defeat of another Arizonian, Barry Goldwater.

Still, the Republican Party retains a remarkably strong pulse, considering that McCain’s often chaotic campaign earned 46 percent of the popular vote while tacking into terrible winds. Conservatives can take some solace from the fact that four years after Goldwater won just 38.5 percent of the popular vote, a Republican president was elected.

The conservative ascendancy that was achieved in 1980 reflected a broad consensus favoring government more robust abroad and less ambitious at home — roughly the reverse of Tuesday’s consensus. But conservatives should note what their current condition demonstrates: Opinion is shiftable sand. It can be shifted, as Goldwater understood, by ideas, and by the other party overreaching, which the heavily Democratic Congress elected in 1964 promptly did.

If Mr. Will wants to think that passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, enacting Medicare, and finishing the trip to the moon is “overreaching,” well, he’s entitled to his opinion, but if it is, let’s hope that the heavily Democratic Congress of 2008 will be just as ambitious.