Dwight Meredith has summed up in a few elegant paragraphs what I was about to try and write in much more painful detail:
By winning control over both the House and the Senate, Mr. Bush controls the agenda and has the power to muscle his policies through the legislature and into law. On issues such as Homeland Security, prescription drugs, balanced budgets, economic growth, tax policy, faith-based initiatives, corporate reform, accounting reform, Social Security privatization, crime, social policy and others, Mr. Bush has been given the power to govern. With the power comes the responsibility. Those issues and others are now Mr. Bush's and the Republican Party's responsibility.
It is now Mr. Bush's job to grow the economy, balance the budget, reduce crime, improve the culture, end partisan sniping and protect us from terrorism.
Mr. Bush came into office after a campaign in which he ran as a "compassionate conservative." He promised to change the tone in Washington and end the partisan bickering. With control over both houses of Congress, Mr. Bush is in a position to dictate the tone. He will choose whether or not the tone remains vituperatively partisan.
Mr. Bush�s control over the agenda enables him to demonstrate that he is the more moderate version of 1990�s Republicanism that the �compassionate� portion of compassionate conservative implies. He must now choose whether or not to govern in a bipartisan, compassionate way.
Since I am not a Democrat, I have no real regret about the outcome of the 2002 midterm elections. In accordance with the instanalysis by the pundits on TV, radio, and the blogsphere, I saw no difference between the policies of the GOP that I opposed and the appeasement of those policies by the so-called "opposition" party.
Of course, election analysis is partly a mirror into the self - Steven Den Beste saw it as a referendum on Iraq, for example. But fundamentally, the why doesn't matter. The point is that the GOP is in control, and I for one am curious to see how it turns out.
If Europe is the bastion of liberalism unchecked, then America could easily be the bastion of conservatism. Just as it is patently unfair of conservatives to label Europe "socialist" (invoking memories of communist Russia), it is equally unfair to label America "fascist" (invoking memories of Nazi Germany) after the GOP assumes total control in January. I consider Europe to be a useful data point at one end of the scale, and now America will give us the other needed to establish a trend.
With the domination of liberalism in Europe, there have been many unintended consequences. For example, the rise of the violent unassimilated immigrant population, directly caused by the combination of the welfare state and the heavily taxed anti-business environment, which make it hard for the unemployed to get on their feet, encourage them to sit at home and seethe, and discourage risk-taking that leads to entrepreneurship and enterprise and re-channeling of the energy of the human spirit into constructive rather than destructive pursuits.
Likewise, the heavy emphasis on international consensus has led to a dilution of sovereignty, leading to less local control over the affairs of people. The rise of the EU and the perceived self-importance of the UN when it comes to social and economic policies are direct outcomes of this. The average European has very little avenue of exertion over their local socio-economic environment. The decisions and referendums of the voters there are easily obliterated by remote decree of unelected committees.
While welfare and business regulation and international agreements ARE important, and play a necessary role in the function of our society, they are not sacred cows. Liberals need to understand this. What was achieved on Tuesday was a separation of variables, allowing for a social experiment whose results will lead to real data. I think it's healthy and I look forward to it (as do some intellectually honest Liberals like my friend and fellow blogger, Matthew Yglesias)
Some of the Good Things that I think we will see - total English-language immersion for immigrant schoolchildren. Stricter welfare programs, and strengthening-by-necessity of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to take on social work that is neglected in the federal budgets (overall, social work performed by true believers is preferable to that done by bureaucracies , even if the latter outspends the former by 10-1). Simplification of the tax code.
There are many things I disagree with, of course. I think we will see weaker unions, higher federal deficits, rising inflation. There will be weaker government oversight of the corporate world, leading to more merging anti-consumer behemoths like Clear Channel, AOL-Time-Warner, and HP-Compaq, and more ethically-challenged smoke and mirror companies like Enron and Worldcom. We will probably have school vouchers implemented at a national level, which will lead to further worsening of public schools. It's likely that there will be some privatization of Social Security, which would fundamentally alter the very nature of the program, because it replaces the original concept of government-guaranteed retirement security with a individual-level burden of risk and uncertainty. Though, the plus side is that it might kill Social Security off entirely, which is good for people my age (28) since it's unlikely there will be any money left for me by the time I retire.
And, of course the moderate wing of the GOP (forgot about them, did you?) now gains enormous power. The control of the Senate is only by a two seat margin. This is an enormously good thing. And I for one an excited to see how this changes the dynamics of the GOP internally.
It boils down to the central lesson : with great power comes great responsibility. I am eager to see the face of the new America.