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I doubt that what happened in the United States on November 2 could have occurred in any European country. In fact, it was almost unprecedented in the United States.
No president in American history has ever been so thoroughly discredited after two years as Barack Obama. When Pres. Bill Clinton’s party lost 54 seats in 1994, that number was shockingly high. But in 2010, the Democrats have lost at least 60 seats in the House (the branch closest to the people) and six in the Senate. Counting as allies some conservative Democrats, the Senate Republicans, while slightly less numerous than Democrats, might emerge with a working majority, though not the two-thirds necessary to override a veto.
In his first two years, the president convinced many millions of Americans that he wants to make the U.S. more like European welfare states. The American people hate the very idea, and they simply rebelled.
What is most striking about this election is the rising up of a huge popular movement with virtually no visible national leader–a movement spontaneously arising out of the refusal to lose the country our Founding Fathers (Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and the others) built solidly on certain fixed, eternal principles: firm principles about the dignity and responsibility before God of every woman and man, about the freedom of the economy from State management (but not from necessary State regulation), and about the universal opportunity of every citizen to rise as far as their talents and hard work will take them.
President Obama pays obeisance to these principles, but his heart is not in it. He mainly trusts government, national government, one powerful central government. The record of his two years in office is repellent–and many, many Americans simply refuse to march in that direction. The Democrats have controlled everything for two years, and their leadership, with too much left-wing enthusiasm, allowed President Obama to take the bit into his mouth and run pell-mell toward the European model.
He could not get all that far, in this deeply whig country. “Whig” is a way of saying “the party of liberty,” the party of personal responsibility, the party of economic opportunity and personal creativity, the party fiercely committed to the defense of liberty (whence the eagle as our national symbol, the eagle with seven arrows in one claw and a large olive branch in the other). The whig tendency in America has always been suspicious of government (as the source of most abuses of human rights, as inefficient, as a breeding ground of corruption). The Whig party, transformed into the new Republican party after 1856, became the party that abolished slavery, and is alive and well today in the Tea Party movement. It is the party of the individual–not the atomized individual, the individual alone, but the civic individual in free cooperation with other individuals.
In recent years, I have wondered how much longer God would continue to bless America, that country so favored by Providence for so long. The mass-media culture of America, its movies, its glitzy magazines, and its public speech (even in churches) are becoming more and more decadent, less and less under the sway of personal moral responsibility, more relativist, less under the self-control of reason. That “superculture” of the media hangs over the nation like a miasma of moral smog. Below it, thank God, there are still tens of millions willing to resist it.
That is the hope of America today. It rises up from the people not yet incapacitated by the moral decline of our elites.
The election of 2010 signified a moral revolution, a cultural revolution, much more profoundly than a political revolution.
We will see how long it can endure and grow from strength to strength–or whether it will self-destruct, as so many movements do.
God, if You can no longer bless the whole nation, please bless the Tea Party movement.
Michael Novak is the George Frederick Jewett Scholar in Religion, Philosophy, and Public Policy at AEI.
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