Jonah Goldberg

This huffing and puffing has been caused in part by an overreaction to the Iraq war and liberal terror over losing the courts. But much of the rage can also be traced to an overcompensating bitterness of small differences. In much the same way a Marxist English professor is suddenly deeply troubled by the slightly less orthodox Marxist ideology of the colleague who unfairly got a better office, many liberals are more angered by the mere fact that Republicans are running the government. It just seems wrong. Republicans don't even like government!

This isn't to say there haven't been some big victories for conservatives over the last five years. Tax cuts, judges, John Bolton, Kyoto and watching Dan Rather dismantle himself like a robot ordered to put himself back in the box: good times, good times.

But, you know, when tectonic plates smash into each other there are earthquakes. After that, it's slow inexorable grinding, with little chunks breaking off of one side and then the other every now and then. That's where conservatives are now: the slow grinding phase.

If you average out the spikes in the political Richter scale, the trends have been obvious for more than a decade: The Democrats are becoming a minority party. The 1990s saw them hemorrhage power in the House, Senate, state legislatures and so forth, even as Bill Clinton moved his party to the right on many of its core issues. Even this month's Democratic victories at best merely preserved the status quo. In Virginia, the winner of the Governor's race was a nominally pro-life DINO replacing another DINO. These centrist Democrats understand that listening to the base of their party would be electoral suicide. Not exactly champagne wishes and caviar dreams for the crowd at The Nation.

And we aren't drinking out of slippers here on the right either. Bush is a lame duck, Social Security reform is dead, the dreams of the revolution come up only when we gather around the campfire to sigh about what might have been.

The Rinos are in charge now. Drilling in ANWR was pulled from the House appropriations budget, tax-cut extensions in the Senate were crushed in deference to the fearsome clout of . Olympia Snowe. Even on judges, the power players are the Gang of Fourteen centrists and Rinos like Arlen Specter. It was Specter, not Ted Kennedy, who gave John Roberts the toughest questions during his hearings.

The most depressing prospect is that this will be the status quo for years to come. Liberals will shriek about GOP radicalism and conservatives will whine about the lack of it. And we'll all have to make do with 2 percent milk.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
 
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