George Will

Free markets, including political markets, equilibrate, producing supplies to meet demands. The Democratic Party, a slow learner but educable, has dropped the subject of gun control and welcomed candidates opposed to parts or even all of the abortion rights agenda. This vindicates the candidate recruitment by Rep. Rahm Emanuel and Sen. Chuck Schumer, chairmen of the Democratic House and Senate campaign committees, respectively. Karl Rove fancies himself a second iteration of Mark Hanna, architect of the Republican ascendancy secured by William McKinley's 1896 election. In Emanuel, Democrats may have found another Jim Farley, the political mechanic who kept FDR's potentially discordant coalition running smoothly through the 1930s.

Making the Democratic House majority run smoothly will require delicacy. The six elections beginning with 1994 produced Republican majorities averaging just 10 seats. The six elections prior to 1994 produced Democratic majorities averaging 44. Nancy Pelosi's majority will be less than half that. The most left-wing speaker in U.S. history will return to being minority leader in 2009 unless she eschews an agenda that cannot be enacted without requiring the many Democrats elected from Republican-leaning districts to jeopardize their seats.

This year Democrats tacitly accepted much of the country's rightward movement over the last quarter-century. They did not call for restoring the 70 percent marginal tax rates that Reagan repealed. And although Pelosi and 15 of the 21 likely chairmen of committees in the coming Congress voted against the 1996 Welfare Reform that has helped reduced welfare rolls by roughly 60 percent, Democrats this year did not talk about repealing it.

The property rights movement gained ground Tuesday as voters in nine states passed measures to restrict governments from exercising eminent domain in order to enlarge their tax revenues. In Michigan, opponents of racial preferences in public hiring, education and contracting easily passed their referendum, 58-42, in spite of being outspent more than three to one. In Minnesota -- the only state Democrats have carried in each of the last eight presidential elections, but one that is becoming a swing state -- Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty was re-elected. And come January, the number of Republicans in the House (at least 200) will still be larger than the largest number during the Reagan years (192 in 1981-83).

The country remains receptive to conservatism. That doctrine -- were it to become constraining on, rather than merely avowed by, congressional Republicans -- can be their bridge back from the wilderness.


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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