Second, not being Obama will no longer be enough for the ascendant Republicans, many of them political novices or Tea Party mavericks skeptical of both parties. These outsiders told outraged voters that America will have to step up and start controlling spending in a manner Republicans never did as a majority in Congress from 2001 to 2006. Perhaps a good symbolic start would be to cut back on popular pet programs -- agricultural subsidies, for example -- whose end the republic will survive. This would be iconic proof of congressional willingness to alienate powerful special interests. Social Security, Medicare and some Defense programs all have to be on the table.
If conservatives plan to cut taxes, they will no longer be able to convince the public that the resulting supply-side growth in the economy will eventually bring in more money and balance the budget. Instead, right from the start, the new House majority will have to demand that we pay as we go -- every dollar lost in revenue will require a commensurate dollar cut in federal spending.
Republicans should be willing to be demagogued by a weakened Obama as heartless and cruel budget cutters -- even if the president may well be the ultimate beneficiary by running on the new theme of fiscal responsibility and a recovering economy in 2012.
Third, voters want their Congress and president to end the pathological value system that got us into this mess. Instead of the president barnstorming the country handing out borrowed cash to favored constituencies and playing one identity group against another, he had better stay in Washington, keep off Comedy Central and "The View," and only come out to brag when he has cut unsustainable spending for all of us.
It should also be an embarrassment, not an honor, for congressional members of either party to put their names on the latest pork-barrel projects. And instead of weekly newsletters from Washington that boast of bringing home the bacon, voters prefer hard proof that their government only spent what it took in. Any politician can promise a new project, an expanded entitlement or a special-interest tax break with someone else's money, but only a statesman can explain exactly how it is all to be paid for.
So for now, voters have said that they are sick of profligate Democrats. But if Republicans do not get that message regarding fiscal restraint, in two years it will be their turn -- again.