History makes good people look stupid by simply keeping track of what they think about the future. Time and again, we trip into trouble as optimists and then crotch as pessimists when things are actually getting better.
Republicans—those Americans most likely to think of themselves as conservative and prudent—are having an especially difficult time looking ahead this year.
For nearly three decades, Republican partisans were aggressively optimistic. Their smiles bedazzled voters and disarmed their critics. They came to believe that the good times were permanent, that their enemies would pay for their wars, and that worry was merely a ploy to grow government. History wasn’t impressed.
The year 2008 turned Republicans inside out. Their present view of the future, as reported in POLITICO, is extraordinary:
“A whopping 72 percent of Republicans are fearful about their own lives, and 79 percent are fearful for the world, the poll (ABC/Washington Post) found. Only 20 percent of Republicans were fearful in 2006, a gigantic 52-point leap. In 2008, those numbers were already rising as President Barack Obama was elected. Then, 54 percent were fearful.”
In 2006, they should have been worried. Instead, they were recklessly optimistic and their leadership drove the country into the rocks. Today, apparently, other Americans are starting to feel better. Republicans, on the other hand, dig trenches all over Washington to prepare for the next attack from Obama and the fate of the Greeks.
Here’s conservative author Mark Steyn's introduction to his remarks at a recent post-election symposium:
“Not to be too pedantic, but for there to be a “future of conservatism in America” there first has to be a future in America. And that’s a more open question than my more optimistic comrades like to admit. The Brokest Nation in History has just told the rest of the world that it is incapable of serious course correction–and around the planet prudent friends and enemies will begin planning for a post-American order.”
Essentially, they believe it would be indecent to compromise with Obama and alter the country’s fiscal course gradually because America isn’t recovering; its heading to disaster.
Not only does this perspective misread the improving mood of the country, if offends the pragmatic corporate soul of American business and pretty much everyone who reads the numbers and thinks calmly about the future.
At least for now, they are out of power, and their incompetent reading of events will likely only isolate them politically and leave America free to heal from the Great Recession.