These are the times that try conservatives' hearts. If public polling still has any semblance of accuracy, Republican candidates are headed for a rout.
Not just John McCain and Sarah Palin. Not only in the Senate, where Democrats stand a chance of gaining 10 seats and obtaining a filibuster-proof majority. Not only in the House, where a pick-up of 30 Democratic seats will make Speaker Nancy Pelosi even more hostile to the prerogatives of the minority.
Beyond Washington, a Democratic tide threatens to swamp Republicans in down-ballot races across the nation, turning large portions of even reliably red states blue. After 28 years, doomsayers are writing obituaries for the Reagan Revolution.
Not so fast. As Democrats learned to their consternation in 2000 and 2004, voters determine the results of elections, not polls. Yet even if the polls are correct, conservatives should take heart. On the ruins of the late, profligate Republican Party, a new foundation can be laid a project that should have begun two years ago.
No matter the results of the election on Nov. 4, and despite the tarnishing Republicans have given to conservatism, America remains a center-right country.
The Battleground Poll is a comprehensive, bipartisan public opinion poll sponsored by George Washington University and conducted by the Republican Terrance Group and Democratic Lake Research Partners.
In January 2000, the poll asked participants to describe their views of politics and government. Fifteen percent described themselves as very conservative, 39 percent as somewhat conservative, 13 percent as moderate, 24 percent as somewhat liberal and 6 percent as very liberal.
Here are the results of the same Battleground Poll question in October 2008: Twenty percent described themselves as very conservative, 39 percent as somewhat conservative, 3 percent as moderate, 26 percent as somewhat liberal and 10 percent as very liberal.
After eight years of the Bush administration and six years during which Republicans controlled at least one house of Congress, with a skyrocketing deficit and ethical scandals, a highly unpopular war in Iraq and a financial crisis, the number of people who describe themselves as very or somewhat conservative has actually grown from 53 percent to 59 percent. In fact since 2002, the very/mostly conservative segment has held remarkably steady around 60 percent.
That tells us that an Obama-Biden White House with a Pelosi-Reid supermajority in Congress is very much out of step with the American people. Democrats cannot possibly maintain that dominance unless Republicans keep doing what they've been doing for the last eight years.
How can there be a Democratic landslide when the polls show a solid conservative majority? Because the Republican Party abandoned its conservative principles and, in turn, conservative voters have abandoned the Republican Party.
Rather than tame government spending, Republicans luxuriated in its power, just as their Democratic predecessors had. Rather than eradicate the cancer of abusive earmarks, they allowed it to metastasize in their own body politic.
Tom DeLay came up with a plan to put K Street influence peddlers to work for Republicans. Those were the same influence peddlers who convinced Congress that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were solid as a rock, and the securities they were selling were as sound as a lockbox.
The conservative goal, however, should never have been to coerce the army of Beltway lobbyists to become mercenaries for Republicans. It shouldn't even have been to reform the lobbyists. It should have been to smash their power.
The 2006 election should have been the wake up call. The current Democrat-controlled Congress has the worst public approval ratings on record. Yet even against this leadership deficit, a Republican Party plagued with the scandal-ridden legacy of DeLay, Ted Stevens, Duke Cunningham and others couldn't offer a meaningful alternative.
If Nov. 4 goes as predicted, a conservative reckoning will take place on Nov. 5.
The Republican leaders who presided over this disaster must go. A new generation of reformers must take charge two years too late, and not a moment too soon.