Brian McNicoll

By now, you’ve probably seen the video of the young man on the state capitol grounds in Madison, Wis., upset over the loss of Tom Barrett in the Wisconsin gubernatorial recall election.

He keeps lamenting the end of an era and the wrongness of it all. And he keeps saying this is the end of democracy in America as we know it.

He’s overwrought, but he’s right. Scott Walker’s victory was as much a victory for the republican form of government versus the democratic form as it was of a Republican over a Democrat. Voters chose a government that promised responsible use of public resources over one that sought to appease special interests. Simply put, prudent pounded popular.

And perhaps not for the last time. In fact, considerable evidence is building on multiple fronts that we may be on the cusp of a conservative wave that could rival even the early 1980s. Peggy Noonan, who knows much about those heady days, had it right: “What happened in Wisconsin signals a shift in public mood and assumption.”

Democrats decried the $30 million Walker spent and that much of it came from out of state. But much of Barrett’s money came from out of state as well. Walker simply raised more because people liked him and his ideas more. They demonstrated this on Tuesday by voting for him.

He was running in an election that was a referendum on public-sector unions in the birthplace of public-sector unions and one of the most unionized states in the country. And he improved his margin from 2010. If the public-sector union message didn’t resonate there, it’s fair to wonder where it would.

It’s the same with the controversy over Citizens United. Liberals say it enables conservatives to raise obscene amounts of money. But there are plenty of liberal billionaires – as well as all those singers and movie stars. Why can’t they keep pace? Same goes for Wall Street and Big Business. Both supported President Obama big in 2008. Both have moved to the conservative camp. Why? Is it because they have gone from Hope and Change to Hope For Change?

The problem for liberals is simple: Americans have decided their ideas don’t work and are turning away in big numbers. And if they don’t figure out a way to turn this around, they could be in for a series of shellackings that will make 2010 seem mild.

More Americans self-identify as conservatives today – and fewer as liberals – than at any time in history. They may not be Republicans – many regard the GOP as unfaithful to conservative principles – but they do believe in fiscal restraint, far-sighted leadership and family-friendly social policy.

Brian McNicoll

Brian McNicoll is a conservative columnist and freelance writer based in Alexandria, Va.