This is it: Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010. This election may prove to be the biggest wave to roll through American politics in a century. Gallup is tracking generic poll numbers which favor Republicans to a degree that has never been seen before. A 60-seat turnover in the House looks like the ground floor. Over at National Review Online, Jim Geraghty crunches the numbers and predicts a net gain of 70 seats. It’s worth noting that, since the beginning of popular Senate elections in 1913, there has never been such a massive shift in the House without the victorious party also taking control of the Senate.
I expect some of the most hotly-contested races to have wild finishes on Tuesday night. A substantial portion of the electorate doesn’t really pay much attention to House and Senate races until the final days. These people dragged themselves out of bed on the Monday after Halloween, swept a pile of candy wrappers off the morning newspaper, and gave their first serious thought to overcoming their default voting tendencies. In a year when the Big Red Wave is the top story, many of them could decide to grab their surfboards, producing late surges that will surprise even the best pollsters. On the other hand, passive voters in deep-blue states might panic and cast their first ballots in years, when they hear incredulous reporters announce that nearly every Democratic seat is in play.
It’s difficult to predict the outcome of such a pivotal election, when you have a strong interest in the outcome. You won’t have much success inspiring people to do something if you finish by glumly noting that it probably won’t work anyway. I have a much stronger sense of what I believe should happen than what I think will happen. In that spirit, I’d like to have a final word with independent voters and with moderate Democrats who feel a bit queasy about the recent adventures of their party.
The Democratic Party has become entirely dedicated to the belief that government is morally and intellectually better equipped to distribute wealth and resources than the private sector. The intellectual argument is laughable, in the wake of a trillion-dollar “stimulus” that has produced nothing but economic wreckage and double-digit unemployment. At such moments, the statist falls back to the moral argument: His agenda is obligatory, because only the political class can divide our national wealth fairly and ensure that citizens are provided with their entitlements. If everyone is entitled to food, shelter, and health care, then even the slightest hesitation to pay any price for them is immoral. The private sector is cast as too greedy and cruel to be entrusted with a rapidly expanding list of essential goods and services, from health care to the sale of automobiles.
To accept this worldview, you must grant politicians the privilege of righteous compulsion. The State produces nothing. It seizes assets, and regulates behavior, through the use of force. When it moves beyond the relatively minimal force needed to protect the rights of its citizens, by keeping the peace and battling foreign threats, the State begins asserting power according to its moral sense. It reshapes society by extracting resources to fund its crusades, subsidizing behavior it agrees with, and penalizing behavior it finds unacceptable. When the ideology of the ruling Party asserts that something is right, it must become compulsory.
The modern Left likes to describe itself as “progressive.” You may have noticed this “progress” always leads to a larger State. Any attempt to reduce the power of government is called “regressive.” You must understand that this is the inevitable result of righteous compulsion. Who will tell the State what is “righteous?” It certainly won’t be you. The little people don’t have the superb academic credentials and life experiences of the elite. The epic heroes of the ruling class can hardly sit around and wait for 100% support before launching their transformative agendas. The very notion strikes them as insane— and desperate Democrats have been using exactly that term to describe unhappy voters in the final days of this campaign season.
The progress of the State is accomplished by piling up obligations. Today’s Congress cannot pass discipline forward to the next session, but only obligation instead. Each of the State’s moral crusades builds up a highly energized group of dependents, who will defend it with feral intensity, even if the program is a wretched failure, measured by any objective standard. There are no “temporary” government programs. If the latest expansion of the State doesn’t work out, it cannot be rolled back to allow different solutions, the way a corporation might revise its third-quarter business plan.
The State will not respond to economic pain the way a healthy private-sector organism does. It will hide its failures, subsidize its losses, and regulate its “competition” out of existence. Politicians might admit to minor errors in technique, when their backs are to the wall, but they rarely admit to comprehensive failure, even in deathbed memoirs.
The moment we have reached, on this fateful Tuesday, is a rare opportunity to change the course of a dying Leviathan, charging toward a bottomless pit of insolvency. It might be our last opportunity. If you vote for a Republican today, you aren’t just voting against a particular Democrat: You’re voting against the doomed system that the Democrats have created.
The obligations built up through the 111th Congress will soon become utterly unsustainable—and then you will be told that massive reductions in your lifestyle, and a permanent descent into national poverty, are the only way to pay for them. All of the spending increases will be considered permanent. Even reducing their rate of growth will be denounced as heartless greed. The only permissible topics of discussion will be the fine details of the exciting new taxes we must pay and the selections of which industries must be tossed into the furnace of nationalization, to keep the engines of the State pumping for a few more years.
Your chance to stop this madness is at hand. You can only do it by sending an electoral signal of such deafening volume that it cannot be spun away or endured as “acceptable losses,” and then you’ll have to do it again, in 2012, when the veto pen can be taken from Barack Obama’s hand. This is the only way to communicate effectively with a self-perpetuating system of righteous compulsion. You cannot make compromises with a network of exploding budgets and deficits. You can’t impose a little bit of discipline on a machine that prints thousand-page bills that nobody reads. In fact, one reason you need to make the Tuesday wave gigantic is to scare the hell out of the Republicans. It will do them a world of good too.
You can sum up the stakes of this election with the example of ObamaCare. It was passed in an orgy of backroom deals and payoffs, over the strident protests of a majority of Americans. It has vaporized thousands of jobs. It has increased the cost of health insurance, and like every other system of price controls, it will soon produce shortages and rationing. It’s an unbelievably inept piece of legislation that produces ugly new surprises with each passing week. A strong majority favors repealing ObamaCare, and yet that will happen only if the Democrats suffer two consecutive defeats of historic proportions, in 2010 and 2012. It’s the most unpopular and clearly defective law to be passed in generations, and we can kill it only with the electoral equivalent of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. You will find no “independence” in a future where you must join with millions of others, and fight heroic battles, to assert control over the smallest details of your life.
A nation of free people has the power to shape its own destiny. Today, you will have your chance to destroy a system that must take that power away from you, and devour it, to stay alive. We stand on the eve of constructing something better. We’ll have to make history to get this construction under way, but we can handle that. We are Americans, after all.