This is a nation that loathes government and always has. Liberals should not be deluded: The Goldwater revolution will ultimately triumph, regardless of what happens in November.
Such is the power of denial that we simply refuse to concede that, by the metric of intractability, at least, conservatives are the cockroaches of the American body politic, poised to outlast us all. And so, after Obama’s victory in 2008, the Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg spoke for sentimental liberal triumphalists everywhere when he concluded that America is now “in a progressive period” and that “the conservative movement brought about by the Gingrich revolution has been crushed.” That progressive period lasted all of a year, giving way to the 2009 gubernatorial victories of the conservatives Bob McDonnell (in the purple state of Virginia) and Chris Christie (in blue New Jersey), as well as that summer’s raucous Obamacare protests. Few Democrats had imagined that the new African-American president would be besieged so quickly by a conservative populist movement whose adherents dressed in 1776 drag and worshipped the frothing-at-the-blackboard Glenn Beck. Or that such a movement would administer a “shellacking” in the midterms.
Such a comeback won’t happen easily, or overnight, or without a major purge of the nativists within conservative ranks. But if history has taught us anything over the past half-century, it’s that the American right’s death wish is a figment of the liberal imagination. For Obama’s supporters, even a 2012 victory is likely to prove but a temporary high.