George Will

WASHINGTON -- In this autumn of their discontent, Republicans tremble as November nears. But now comes yet another book by a gloomy liberal anticipating permanent Republican dominance. Thomas B. Edsall of The New Republic, in ``Building Red America: The New Conservative Coalition and the Drive for Permanent Power,'' argues that inexorable social forces, augmented by the conservatives' superior reservoirs of anger, ruthlessness and cynicism -- he neglects only the word ``wickedness'' -- favor Republicans, ``the party of the socially and economically dominant.''

The parties are almost at numerical parity, but Edsall, who until recently was a Washington Post political reporter, says Republicans represent people ``more broadly skilled in economic combat'' and ``more accustomed to the rigors of the market.'' Hence Republicans can maintain ``a thin but durable margin of victory.'' Their technique is ``the symbolic manipulation of controversial sociocultural issues touching upon national security, patriotism, race, sex, and religion.''

``The GOP,'' Edsall laments, ``has achieved a gradual erosion of the popular consensus behind the major progressive and social-egalitarian movements of the twentieth century.'' But what actually ``achieved'' that? Edsall says the principal Republican objective has been to break ``the trust ... between the government and millions of its less advantaged citizens.'' But he acknowledges that Republicans have been helped ``inestimably'' by ``the daily inefficiencies of government'': ``The monopoly nature of government guarantees that the public services will often lag in quality behind those delivered in the competitive private sector.'' Hence ``the declining credibility of non-market solutions to economic problems'' and the demoralization of ``backers of a redistributive agenda.''

Edsall complains that conservatives pursue an agenda that does not have the public's ``decisive support.'' Whatever that means, liberals like Edsall are ineligible to make that complaint. They increasingly have abandoned persuasion and legislation and resorted to litigation and judicial fiats to advance an agenda the public finds unpersuasive.

If Edsall is symptomatic, liberalism is lost in a time warp, thinking in antiquated categories. Edsall approvingly quotes a Democratic activist's opinion that there are twice as many angry conservatives as there are angry liberals: ``Liberals by their very nature don't get as angry as conservatives do.'' Edsall, who evidently has not noticed the vitriol of the liberal blogosphere, is so blinded by his own anger he misperceives Republican realities.

George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
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