Jonah Goldberg

The Republicans are doomed. Conservatism is over. President Obama is conducting a mop-up operation at this point.

That's the basic consensus in places like New York City, Washington, D.C., and other citadels of blue America.

And let's be fair, liberals have every reason to gloat -- a little. The GOP has its troubles. Long-term demographic trends; often-irrational animosity from Hollywood, the media and academia; a thumbless grasp of the culture on the part of many Republicans: All of these things create a headwind for the party and the broader conservative movement.

But here's the weird part. That's all true of presidential politics, but less so when it comes to state politics or even other federal races. In 2010, the GOP had its best performance in congressional races since 1938.

In North Carolina, a state that is supposed to represent the trends benefitting Democrats -- it's attracting liberal northern transplants, immigrants, high-tech workers, etc. -- the GOP now has veto-proof majorities in the state house and senate. Last November, North Carolina became the 30th state with a GOP governor.

What gives?

There are a lot of possible explanations that are not mutually exclusive. Obama is more popular than his party. Mitt Romney was less popular than the ideas he had such a hard time expressing. Presidential electorates are different.

This last one is definitely true when you compare who voted in 2010 and who voted in 2012. The 2010 electorate was older and whiter. The Obama coalition of 2012 included younger voters, minorities and so-called "low-information voters."

No matter the merits of these observations, they don't fully explain why Republicans are doing so well on the policy front. In states as diverse as Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Nebraska, Michigan, New Jersey, Texas and a half-dozen others, Republicans have been implementing impressive -- even miraculous -- reforms.

In pro-Obama Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker beat back a historic attack from organized labor. And Michigan -- Michigan! -- recently became a right-to-work state, which I'm pretty sure is mentioned in the AFL-CIO's bylaws as a sign of the end times.

I think an overlooked part of the story is the fact that Americans tend to see federal and local governments differently. At the local level, people seem to have a better grasp that it's their tax dollars at work. They are far more sensitive to tax increases and more easily outraged by spending boondoggles. They understand the importance of sustainable economic growth.


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.
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