Then there are the emotional deficiencies of the masses. Nearly every Democratic apologist lamented the people's anger and anxiety, a free-floating agitation that prevented them from appreciating the beneficence of the social agenda the Democrats are so determined to foist upon them.
That brings us to Part 2 of the liberal conceit: Liberals act in the public interest, while conservatives think only of power, elections, self-aggrandizement and self-interest.
It is an old liberal theme that conservative ideas, being red in tooth and claw, cannot possibly emerge from any notion of the public good. A 2002 New York Times obituary for philosopher Robert Nozick explained that the strongly libertarian implications of Nozick's masterwork, "Anarchy, State, and Utopia," "proved comforting to the right, which was grateful for what it embraced as philosophical justification." The right, you see, is grateful when a bright intellectual can graft some philosophical rationalization onto its thoroughly base and self-regarding politics.
This belief in the moral hollowness of conservatism animates the current liberal mantra that Republican opposition to Obama's social democratic agenda -- which couldn't get through even a Democratic Congress and powered major Democratic losses in New Jersey, Virginia and Massachusetts -- is nothing but blind and cynical obstructionism.
By contrast, Democratic opposition to George W. Bush -- from Iraq to Social Security reform -- constituted (BEG ITAL)dissent(END ITAL). And dissent, we were told at the time, including by candidate Obama, is "one of the truest expressions of patriotism."
No more. Today, dissent from the governing orthodoxy is nihilistic malice. "They made a decision," explained David Axelrod, "they were going to sit it out and hope that we failed, that the country failed" -- a perfect expression of liberals' conviction that their aspirations are necessarily the country's, that their idea of the public good is the public's, that their failure is therefore the nation's.
Then comes Massachusetts, an election Obama himself helped nationalize, to shatter this most self-congratulatory of illusions.
For liberals, the observation that "the peasants are revolting" is a pun. For conservatives, it is cause for uncharacteristic optimism. No matter how far the ideological pendulum swings in the short term, in the end the bedrock common sense of the American people will prevail.
The ankle-dwelling populace pushes back. It re-centers. It renormalizes. Even in Massachusetts.
Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.
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