Suzanne Fields

Let's raise a cup o' cheer for robust, aggressive debate, especially for a democracy in an election campaign. Truth will out. Sometimes it takes a while, but determined voters can find out what they need to know from many voices, even when the voices are raised (or especially when they're raised.) The voter, often dismissed by the elites as dumb and unrefined, knows how to select and separate the wheat from the chaff. This week, he left a lot of chaff on the wind.

So let's hear it for the Americans who refuse to be characterized by name-calling, who don't like it when their president calls them "enemies" to be "punished" because they disagree with his policies and initiatives, or to hear that they're "hard-wired" not to think clearly when they're scared. Americans think well enough, scared or not. A rush of adrenalin quickens both imagination and the impulse for self-defense.

It must have been the ghosts, goblins and witches (and not just in Delaware) who scoured the graveyards at Halloween and resurrected those conservative voters pronounced dead only two years ago. Fortunately, they were buried in shallow graves by gravediggers who work by day as pundits.

It's always a mistake to make identifications from a snapshot, or generalizations from fancies that might well be passing. We can leave it to the historians to say what permanent marks this most recent wave of conservatism will have left on the landscape. But Barack Obama, like Bill Clinton before him, will have to recognize the message the voters sent and decide whether to work with it or work around it. He only reluctantly conceded, in his post-knockout press conference, that he sort of "gets it." The proof is still in the oven.

It's true enough that most midterm congressional elections go badly for nearly every president, and each one is different and goes badly in different ways. This one ratifies the accelerating pace of information delivery through both the old and new media outlets, and confirmed the fact that conservatism is in the DNA of the American body politic. We have a lot worth conserving.

The Tea Party phenomenon, for all of its considerable force, is still an ungoverned, undisciplined, leaderless organization that coalesced more around anger than creative change. That's where organized, effective political opposition nearly always starts. What works achieves momentum when it separates from what doesn't. Independents, by most estimates, comprised a third of the Tea Party voters, maybe more. But angry opposition ultimately requires accomplishment, and that's the caution for conservatives. Every generation chooses what it wants to conserve.

Suzanne Fields

Suzanne Fields is currently working on a book that will revisit John Milton's 'Paradise Lost.'

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