Shortly after the Republicans lost control of Congress in 2006, I wrote in my book, Leviathan on the Right: How Big Government Conservatives Brought Down the Republican Revolution, that unless the Republican Party rejected Bush-style big-government conservatism and returned to its limited government roots “the 2006 elections are likely to be just a taste of things to come.”
Apparently, Republicans didn’t heed that message. By almost every measure, government grew bigger, more expensive, and more intrusive under President Bush and the Republican Congress. John McCain may have rhetorically criticized government spending, notably earmarks, but consistently backed bigger and more activist government, whether backing the Wall Street bail-out or calling for a $300 billion bailout of delinquent mortgages. By most measures he supported only slightly less government spending than did Sen. Obama.
Exit polls show that Republican losses were heaviest among upscale suburban voters who tend to be economically conservative but socially moderate. These formally reliable Republican voters did not suddenly decide that they wanted a bigger, more expensive, and more intrusive government. But, faced with the big-government status quo or big-government “change,” they opted for change.
Republicans now have two more years in the wilderness to decide whether or not they actually stand for limited government and individual liberty. One wonders, whether this time they will hear the message.