Paul Greenberg

These are the times that try conservatives' souls. A presidential election has been lost by a convincing margin. The winner has taken the result as a mandate, a license to do ... whatever he wants to do. It is the people's will!

Laws, regulations, executive orders -- all are being readied. All that's needed is the usual legal boilerplate and they'll appear in the Federal Register to decree, mystify and generally order us about.

As for the laws already on the books, they can be conveniently forgotten. Reports go unfiled, deadlines are missed, budgets aren't submitted despite what the law "mandates," and extra-constitutional measures taken. (See the recess appointments just declared unconstitutional by an appellate court.)

Fiscal realities are ignored by official decree, and the day of reckoning put off for ever and ever. We're supposed to believe it'll never come. Happy times are here again. For a while, anyway.

We are all about to be inundated by this era's Wave of the Future. The undercurrent already tugs at our feet as Obamacare goes into muddy effect in state after state. Arbitrary rule by distant functionaries spreads, and the rule of law grows weaker.

Resistance is futile, conservatives are told -- repeatedly. Shut up, they explain. For we lost, didn't we? And it's winning that counts. It's not just the most important thing but the only thing. Call it the Vince Lombardization of the American ethos. "Loser" seems to have become the most damning, the most irreversible word in the American vocabulary.

It shouldn't be. Losing is a great opportunity -- to reassess a philosophy's strengths and weaknesses, and realize which are which. Some conservative tendencies are essential and others expendable, even harmful. Defeat clarifies such differences in a way triumph never could. Especially the difference between the high road and the wrong turn.

Losing can be a chance to regain perspective, get a grip, pull up our socks ... and realize that what looked all-important before an election wasn't. What seemed major turns out to be only minor in the bright light of the Morning After, when the binge is over, and it's time to face some realities, maybe even deal with them.

Think of these days as a kind of political Yom Kippur, a time to confess our sins, make atonement, and emerge cleansed at the end of the day, ready to do battle again. Only better.


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.