The biggest political lesson of 2009 connects directly to the best political news about 2010, and both factors should help inspire conservatives to sweeping and historic victories in the year ahead.
The most significant message from all the confusion and controversy of the year now concluding is that elections matterand they matter a lot. During 2008, some arrogant cynics haughtily spurned the political process, insisting that it made no difference which party or candidate took control of the White House and Capitol Hill. According to this logic, both Republicans and Democrats served the same corrupt corporate masters, and represented the same bankrupt ideologies, so that choosing between them amounted to a waste of time.
If nothing else, the first year of Obamanism (or Obamunism as my friend David Boze aptly describes it) has succeeded in exploding these dunder-headed delusions. John McCain might well have disappointed conservative and libertarian true-believers, but he wouldnt have pushed through a mammoth health-care takeover, or spent $800 billion on a pork-laden stimulus package, or tripled the deficit from its worst level under Bush, or apologized repeatedly to our adversaries and allies around the world. In fact, Senator McCain has played a leading and often ferocious role in opposing all the most dangerous power-grabs of the Obama administration, including stimulus spending, health insurance fiasco, the emasculation of our anti-terrorism efforts, and even the Democratic version of cap-and-trade. Those who claimed that Barack the Beneficent was actually a moderate, a centrist, a cautious, pragmatic and level-headed reformer no worse (and maybe even better and brighter) than George W. Bush should open their eyes to the alarming realities. No Drama Obama has actually lurched dramatically to the left, proving himself every bit as radical as Sarah Palin, John McCain and Joe the Plumber claimed he would be.
Its not only presidential elections that matter for the nations future: Senate and House races can also play a huge role in steering the country on a new course. After endless recounts and legal challenges and the partisan inclusion of questionable ballots, the uncompromising leftist Al Franken prevailed by the narrowest of margins over mainstream Republican Norm Coleman. A change of less than 500 votes in Minnesota (a state of more than 5,000,000) would have returned Coleman to the Senate, denying Democrats that all-important 60th vote needed to end a filibuster and ram through Obama care. Coleman would have certainly opposed it as did every single one of the other GOP Senators (yes, including the two infamous moderates from the state of Maine). The irony is that Minnesotans squandered more than 15% of their votes on various third party egomaniacs whose meaningless campaigns achieved precisely nothing. If only a third of those purists who cast votes for the candidates of the Constitution or Libertarian parties (quick, can anyone even remember their names?) had cast their ballots instead for Coleman, he would have been re-elected comfortably and Obamas health care takeover could have been blocked.
The record of the last twelve months, with all the fierce fights in both Senate and House, underlines the importance of every election and every vote. Those who say they dont care about political outcomes are saying in effect they dont care about government policy an inane position when an activist federal authority threatens so many of our core liberties.
Fortunately, this big lesson from 2009 relates directly to the best aspect of 2010: finally, after many months of frustration and bitterness and fear, the American people will actually get a chance to vote on the Obama agenda. Its true that Tea Parties and demonstrations and petitions and TV ads and talk radio harangues can help keep conservative hopes alive, but they cant really change policy not when Democrats maintain big majorities in both houses of Congress to go along with their domination of the executive branch. Activism and community organizing can be important and admirable, but only electoral victories can actually shift the direction of the country.
Less than eleven months from today, at the end of next year, voters in every state will get the chance to express their opinion of the menacing agenda pursued so recklessly by Obama, Pelosi and Reid. Their verdict will determine whether Washington proceeds to further expand the power and cost of government, or begins to shift to a more sane and practical approach. After all the appropriate complaints and warnings and shrieks of agony in 2009, conservatives will finally get a chance in 2010 to register their protests where it counts: at the ballot box. To paraphrase Lincoln, our efforts in the year ahead will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation.