In the post-election “Now What?” edition of National Review just out today, I have an article suggesting that the durable features of the Constitution, however attenuated by a century of “progressivism,” should caution us from overdoing our pessimism. The whole article is behind a subscriber firewall, but here’s the lede:
Conservatives are natural pessimists, based on a realism about fallible human nature that fuels our opposition to the coercive utopianism of the Left. The Founders shared this pessimism about human nature and the weakness of democracy, and kept it at the forefront of their minds as they designed our political institutions: “If men were angels,” and all that. But the conservative pessimism after the GOP’s poor showing in this election is overdone. The Republican party and the conservative movement were said to be finished after Barry Goldwater’s landslide loss in 1964, and again in 1976, when the aftermath of Watergate and Jimmy Carter’s narrow presidential win installed Democratic supermajorities in both houses of Congress. In 1977, voters who identified with the Republican party fell to an all-time low of 21 percent.
I also offer this prescription on the “fiscal cliff”:
So here’s an idea: the House GOP should call the Obama-Krugman bluff, pass a sweeping, pro-growth tax reform package right now, and send it to the Senate, coupled with an announcement that it is not going along with tax increases for anyone unless they are for everyone. Heck, the House GOP could even just pass Simpson-Bowles, and rightly say they are passing the plan President Obama’s own commission recommended. The House should be prepared to let all the Bush tax cuts expire, which will expose the liberal fiction that the Bush tax cuts only helped “the rich.” The tax increase will happen without a vote to increase taxes, so no-tax increase pledges can be honored. It will all be on Obama and Senate Democrats. If Speaker John Boehner is serious that the House GOP has just as much of a mandate as the President, then this is the time to act on it.
And finally, a coda for pessimists:
[C]onservatives of pessimistic bent ought to orient themselves according to a fragment from T.S. Eliot that longtime National Review contributor (and happy pessimist) Russell Kirk liked to quote in these pages:
“If we take the widest and wisest view of a Cause, there is no such thing as a Lost Cause because there is no such thing as a Gained Cause. We fight for lost causes because we know that our defeat and dismay may be the preface to our successors’ victory, though that victory itself will be temporary; we fight rather to keep something alive than in the expectation that anything will triumph.”