I have a friend who voted for Obama using the following logic:
- McCain would be a terrible president, leaving the conservative movement in disarray as people continue to confuse Republicans with conservatives. Hillary then gets elected and our collective pain gets stretched far into the future.
- Obama would be worse, but he would focus our thinking. The pain will be worth it. Carter gave us Reagan, after all.
Whether my friend was right remains an open question. About point one, there can be no doubt. While John McCain would not have been an O-style disaster, he would have been pretty bad, and since he's a Republican, people would have blamed - incorrectly - the conservative movement for the country's problems.
No doubt you know of this confusion. It's not unlike liberals saying, "You have no credibility criticizing Obama's spending because Bush spent a lot, too!"
Leaving aside the fact that Obama has ratcheted the problem to a whole new level, I don't know a single conservative who was pleased with Bush's spending habits, particularly with things like the prescription drug entitlement. But the public is frequently confused between the conservative movement and the Republican Party. That they grew far apart accounted for the birth of the Tea Party, a development that makes the Republican establishment highly dyspeptic.
So, there are reasons not to be too upset with the last election. The wrong Republican was nominated. Conservatism would have lost relevance for decades, potentially.
But will the damage be worth it? We can't know, at this point, but I grow increasingly optimistic that the answer will be yes - by a hair. I believe that in a year and a half the Republican party will control all the White House and both branches of Congress, and they will have a mandate for some long overdue, radical change. A new tax code. Entitlement reform. Repeal of the twin job-killing monsters Obamacare and Dodd-Frank. Big stuff, and much needed.
Whether Republicans will actually do these things is probably a bigger question than whether they will have the opportunity. This all depends on who moves into the White House.
Whether any of this will offset the incredible damage Obama has managed to inflict in a such a short period of time is still debatable. He is a wrecking ball. Can you imagine if the House hadn't shifted last year? We'd be dealing with things like cap & trade, too.
At least we have a definitive answer that Keynesianism doesn't work. Hopefully, that lesson, and all the others, will be internalized for at least a generation or two, at which point we'll be seduced into making the same mistakes all over again by some new group of charlatans.