And then there is the response of the kind of urban professional Judis and Teixeira claimed were the mainstay of a new Democratic majority. One of these men, Will Parker, age 24, told reporter Eckholm that it was almost impossible to find the kind of job he was prepared for. He “finished college in 2009 with a degree in marketing and communications. In six months of looking, he found no work here in his hometown and had to take a Web-page job in Columbus, 115 miles to the southeast, that he feels is a dead end. Mr. Parker voted for Mr. Obama and said he now felt ‘voter’s remorse’ because ‘it feels like we’re creating a welfare state.’”
One small businessman, Karl Kissner, a local restaurant owner, explained it this way: “The health care bill caused a breach with the public.” The president’s stimulus plan, claimed Kissner, “created a false bottom” to the recession, making it hard to plan and invest. Mr. Kissner said he was “up in the air” about his vote for governor. But for the Senate this year, he will definitely vote for Rob Portman, the Republican.
No wonder John B. Judis today spends his time blasting the Tea Party movement, which has helped destroy the Democratic majority he thought had arrived permanently only two years ago. While he is smart enough to acknowledge that it is not “fascist,” as many left-wing bloggers claim, he argues instead that it is simply politically backwards. Nor is it racist; it is instead an amalgam of a “middle class cri de coeur,” in which disgruntled economic groups now shift to the populist right rather than the populist left, as had occurred in the 1930s. And many of the Tea Party members, rather than being funded by big Republican money, are actually responding to specific and just grievances.
Judis’ final argument echoes that of Thomas Frank, whose now famous book (and phrase) What’s the Matter with Kansas? revealed a lot about the author’s belief that if residents of a state like Kansas vote Republican rather than Democrat, it reflects their shortsightedness and stupidity. Judis and other liberal and left-wing writers believe that the people just might fail them once again — a position it seems Barack Obama adheres to also.
Judis no doubt hopes that the Democratic majority will emerge from the ashes, but he has neglected to take into account the actual policies advocated by liberals — policies that average people see through, but which liberal and socialist journalists cannot understand why the people reject. As Judis writes, “those most likely to benefit from right-wing middle class insurgencies are not the embattled middle classes, but the business interests and the wealthy associated with the Republican Party.”
Judis seems to have no awareness of all those studies which show that major corporate money has been flowing for years to the Democrats, and that regular people, whose interests he believes he and other liberal journalists understand better than they do, are rather fed up with the bail-outs and handouts to the banks and the brokerage houses.
It is his hope, as his column makes clear, that after the Republican triumph the people will return to their senses and turn back in favor of social-democracy, and in so doing, rescue his moribund thesis about the emerging Democratic majority. Somehow, I suspect he will be waiting a long, long time. Perhaps the title of his next book will be What’s Wrong With America?
Today’s New York Times has a terrific editorial by Ross Douthat, in which he picks up on the themes I was trying to address, although less eloquently than Douthat does (and less concise). Here are his conclusions:
Thus his sagging poll numbers; thus the debacle that probably awaits his party on Tuesday. It will not be as grave a defeat as many conservatives would like to think: the health care bill may yet be remembered by liberals as a victory worth the price, the demographic trends are still with the Democrats, and the Republicans will return to power unprepared to wield it. But nonetheless, an opportunity has opened for the Right that would have been unimaginable just two years ago — a chance to pre-empt a seemingly inevitable liberal epoch with an unexpected conservative revival.
To achieve a conservative revival, conservatives have to come up with real programs and cogent alternatives, not just rhetoric. And that is a task easier to mention than to achieve. Let us hope we’re all up to it.