Ross Douthat contemplates the debacle of the 2008 election, and is depressed while being glad that it’s at least over.
I had a succession of meals last week with smart conservative friends, and I found them all relatively sanguine. … Each of them, in different ways, express a mix of enthusiasm for the “whither conservatism” battles ahead and relief at the prospect of finally closing the books on the Bush years. This has been an exhausting Presidency for conservatives as well as liberals, and for many people on the Right the prospect of being out of power has obvious upsides: No longer will every foul-up and blunder in Washington be treated as an indictment of Conservatism with a capital C; no longer will right-wingers feel obliged to carry water, whether in small or large amounts, for a government that’s widely perceived as a failure; and no longer will the Right have the dead weight of an unpopular president dragging it down and down and down. Defeat will be depressing, of course – none of my friends were Obamacons by any stretch – but it could be liberating as well.
This was how I expected to feel about a McCain defeat, too, and I’ve been trying to figure out why I don’t – why I feel instead so grouchy and embittered (clinging to my guns and my religion, and all that), and more dispirited than liberated…
I think the deeper reason for my political gloom has to do with something that Jonah Goldberg raised in our bloggingheads chat about conservatism – namely, the sense that the era now passing represented a great opportunity to put into practice the sort of center-right politics that I’d like to see from the Republican Party, and that by failing the way it did the Bush Administration may have cut the ground out from under my own ideas before I’d even figured out exactly what they were. ..
I’m not counseling despair here: There were people in 1976 who thought Richard Nixon had irrevocably squandered the chance to build a new right-of-center majority, and looked how that turned out.