If the 2008 presidential elections marked the apex of America's political adolescence, the 2010 midterm election represented the first glimmers of political maturation.
The year 2008 was the culmination of two concomitant American desires: the desire for political consonance and the desire for responsibility-free living. Americans elected President Obama because we wanted to put an end to divisive and strident debate in the aftermath of the Bush years; we were tired, and we were taken in by President Obama's happy talk about the Great Political Convergence and the Great Racial Healing. At the same time, Americans were hurting, and we wanted the government to take care of us; we didn't even want the responsibility of holding government accountable, so we turned over the levers of power to Great Administrators.
It was stupidly hopeful, juvenile in the extreme. There's a reason that the Democratic Party counted on college students to an inordinate degree in 2008 -- they required the mush-filled skulls of enthusiastic non-taxpaying pseudo-intellectuals to lead the way.
And so we elected President Obama. It was a time for dreaming. Then we woke up.
Like adolescents suddenly realizing that Mom and Dad are divorcing and going bankrupt, and that no one is going to pay for their Green Day albums and weed, we realized that a system that pays for all our needs also drains dry. We realized that there is no such thing as a Great Political Consonance absent surrender of political control, and that Great Administrators are oligarchs. We realized that the benefits to dependence are far outweighed by its negatives. We realized that we couldn't have freedom without limited government, that we couldn't have wealth without work, and that we couldn't have unending handouts without unending debt.
We grew up. If 2008 was the Free Lunch Election, 2010 was the sudden understanding that Free Lunches don't exist. If 2008 was the Second French Revolution, 2010 was the Second American Revolution. In 2008, we closed our eyes and jumped. In 2010, we realized that we were, like Wile E. Coyote, clinging to a tree branch suspended above a 10,000-foot chasm.
During this election cycle, President Obama fondly and repeatedly utilized a cloying metaphor about D standing for both Drive and Democrat, while R stood for Reverse and Republican. He never established what we were supposedly driving toward or away from. But Americans understood. We were driving toward Europe. We were driving away from our history.