Jewish World Review July 16, 2010 / 5 Menachem-Av, 5770
When Did the Rules Change?
By Jonah Goldberg
I'm beginning to wonder if the political moment is much, much, more significant than most of us realize. The rules may have changed in ways no one would have predicted two years ago. And perhaps 10 years from now we'll look back on this moment and it will all seem so obvious.
In 2008, American liberalism seemed poised for its comeback. The pendulum of
Now that all looks preposterous. Of course, considerable blame can be laid at a
But it would be foolish to over-read the importance of much of that. Politicians are sometimes dealt bad cards and play them well and sometimes they are dealt good cards and play them badly. But the basic political rules stay the same.
But what about when the rules change? For nearly a century now, the rules have said that tough economic times make big government more popular. For more than 40 years it has been a rule that environmental disasters -- and scares over alleged ones -- help environmentalists push tighter regulations. According to the rules, Americans never want to let go of an entitlement once they have it. According to the rules, populism is a force for getting the government to do more, not less. According to the rules, Americans don't care about the deficit during a recession.
And yet none of these rules seem to be applying; at least not too strongly. Big government seems more unpopular today than ever. The Gulf oil spill should be a Gaiasend for environmentalists, and yet three quarters of the American people oppose Obama's drilling ban. Sixty percent of likely voters want their newly minted right to health care repealed. Unlike
But even on the continent the rules are changing. European governments have turned into deficit hawks to the point where the American president feels the need to lecture them on their stinginess.
Of course, he increasingly feels the same need here at home as our out-of-control debt is becoming a live issue, despite the fact that voters should be clamoring -- according to the rules -- for more taxpayer-funded jobs.
But is it really so outlandish to imagine that
As a conservative, I'm very reluctant to believe that the rules change easily or often. And there's no end of explanations for the political climate that would leave the rules intact. But it's just becoming harder and harder to shake the feeling that something bigger than politics as usual is at work.
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