I almost skipped reading George F. Will’s column yesterday because I could pretty much predict what he was going to say — the election of 2010 was a rejection of liberalism — even before I read the headline. He and David Brooks and the bow-tie daddies have been telling us that for months.
Except I don’t buy it. The mid-term elections of 2010 were a result of an economy still struggling to recover and unemployment still too high, plus the usual trend in mid-term elections for older and more conservative — dare I say reactionary — voters to come out and younger ones staying home. Had those factors not been involved, the elections would probably have gone better for the Democrats.
I’m pretty sure that when the GOP lost the mid-terms in 2006, Mr. Will et al did not conclude that it was a rejection of conservatism; they said it was a reaction to the moment and that Republicans had not lived up to their promises, and that the election of Barack Obama in 2008 was not a “wave” but a rejection of the Bush presidency. Fair is fair; if they can claim that for 2006, it has to apply to this election as well. If it was John McCain in the White House and unemployment was hovering around 10%, you’d hear Mr. Will explaining patiently that the Democratic take-over of the House and Senate in the 2010 midterms was not a rejection of conservatism.
One factor that has nothing to do with liberalism or conservatism will change, probably by the next election, and that is that the economy will improve. Even after the pounding it has taken over the past three years, the economy moves in cycles, and we are, despite the current numbers of unemployed and factory orders, on a recovery upswing. And since irony reigns supreme in American elections, the fact that it was a Republican administration and economic policy that got us into this current recession meant that the people who took over from them and tried to fix it are the ones who are getting the blame. Most voters are focused on issues that touch them rather than whether or not the country is too liberal or conservative. They look at their own lives and vote accordingly, and this time it was the Democrats who got the blame.