Jonah Goldberg

It wasn't supposed to be like this.

The Obama administration came into power with the political winds at its back, the media at its feet and Americans open to major change. The White House even had a slogan: A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.

The logic behind the axiom is unassailable. As Robert Higgs documented in his libertarian classic, "Crisis and Leviathan," it's crisis -- not merely war -- that is the health of the state. Crises melt frozen politics. They create opportunities. They give the government room to maneuver and grow.

And for a while, it worked that way. Democrats steamrolled the most ambitiously liberal agenda in at least a generation. Yet liberals are miserable. Their lamentations over what they see as President Obama's lack of audacity punctuate the din, like ululating matrons at an Arab politician's funeral.

This misplaced griping stems not from Obama's failure to "think big" but from a misreading of the political climate: Liberals thought they'd be popular.

The American people supported the New Deal and pro-FDR politicians for years. This time around, Americans aren't turning to government. Rather, they've grown only more disgusted with the public sector. Trust in government is near its historic low. Obama's support among self-identified independents is at an all-time low and doesn't appear to have hit bottom yet, while the "intensity" among Republican voters continues to surge.

Indeed, conservatives outnumber liberals by more than 2 to 1 (42 percent to 20 percent), according to Gallup. If that trend continues just a bit more, an absolute majority of Americans may soon call themselves conservatives.

All those liberal pundits who prophesized an Obama-led "new New Deal" must feel foolish as they don their life preservers and head to higher ground in anticipation of the electoral tsunami heading their way in November.

In a futile effort to build the morale of the sandbag brigades preparing for the tide, the White House and Democrats have interrupted their "recovery summer" cheerleading and started making the case that the coming election is a "choice," not a "referendum." It's "a choice between the policies that led us into this mess or the policies that are leading us out of this mess," Obama thundered in Missouri last week.

Obviously, such arguments hinge on the hope that the people will agree. That seems doubtful. Indeed, if that reasoning were persuasive, ObamaCare would be popular -- or at least it would have become popular since its passage, as the White House predicted.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
TOWNHALL DAILY: Be the first to read Jonah Goldberg's column. Sign up today and receive Townhall.com daily lineup delivered each morning to your inbox.