This country is divided into three parts concerning national politics. About a third think President Obama is moving in the right direction, with many of them impatient for the president to be bolder with his leftist agenda. Somewhere in the vicinity of 40 percent to 50 percent of Americans are shocked and appalled at the nation's rush toward bankruptcy, socialism, fundamental transformation of our way of life and the permanent weakening and impoverishing of America. And some 15 percent to 30 percent are quite concerned about the current state of the country but see no imminent crisis and think that with some substantial adjustments, Mr. Obama's efforts may end up being useful. (The foregoing numbers are merely my subjective judgment, not based on any particular poll.)
If the percentages of the shocked and appalled are close to 50 percent while the concerned but not panicked are closer to 15 percent, November probably will see a transforming election, with the Republicans taking over both the House and Senate. I'm obviously in the shocked and appalled group.
But it is that third category -- concerned but not panicked -- that will decide the election. No one better represents the third group than the gentlemanly, moderately conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks. During the election, he was enamored of Barack Obama. He was impressed with Mr. Obama's mind, his temperament, his sense of American history and culture and his style. As things have gone rocky, Mr. Brooks has been quite tough on the president one week and renewed in his admiration the next.
Sunday on "Meet the Press," he reacted to Utah's Republican Sen. Robert F. Bennett's third-place finish in the Republican primary with the uncharacteristic statement: "This is a damn outrage." He went on to say that Mr. Bennett was "a good conservative who was trying to get things done;" that he was "bravely" working with Democrats to help pass the Troubled Asset Relief Program and health care bill. "Now, he's losing his career over that. And it's just a damn outrage."
By contrast, I and others, as members of the shocked and appalled group, know the senator to be a fine, intelligent and honorable man, usually conservative, but not doctrinaire. In normal times, his commitment to working the interstices of the two parties on behalf of getting something done would be both admirable and useful. But, while sorry for him as a person (he deserves a better career end than this) I was delighted to see him lose because the next Congress is going to need a lot of a certain type of politician -- and Mr. Bennett is not that type.
We need determined men and women who share the view of us shocked and appalled Americans that we are in crisis -- and that we cannot wait until 2013 to stop the madness and start the rollback. Winning a majority of Republicans in November without electing a majority for radical, immediate rollback will be essentially as good as losing. As a Republican Party man for 46 years, I have, until now, always thought it was better to win a majority any way we can.
But not this year. This year it really doesn't matter that good men such as Mr. Bennett get thrown out on their ear. I became radicalized on the matter of the national deficit and debt upon the administration's release of its 10-year budget -- the most irresponsible federal document ever released -- which plans for unsustainable debt and does not even propose a path out.
The Congressional Budget Office reported in the summary of its document, "The Long-Term Budget Outlook": "The federal budget is on an unsustainable path -- meaning that federal debt will continue to grow much faster than the economy over the long run. ... Rising costs for health care and the aging of the U.S. population will cause federal spending to increase rapidly. ...
"... Large budget deficits would reduce national saving, leading to more borrowing from abroad and less domestic investment, which in turn would depress income growth. ... The accumulation of debt would seriously harm the economy. Alternatively, if spending grew as projected and taxes were raised in tandem, tax rates would have to reach levels never seen in the United States (the highest marginal income tax rate so far: 94 percent, in 1944-45). High tax rates would slow the growth of the economy, making the spending burden harder to bear."
In the face of financial ruin of the nation, it was unconscionable to pass a new health entitlement that almost all Americans know will add trillions to the debt. Next year, as Mr. Obama almost certainly will call for a new value-added tax to do the "responsible thing" to reduce the deficits he and Congress have created, it will be equally unconscionable to support such a tax. The only solution to the debt and deficit that will not kill economic growth is to cut spending, not raise taxes. We cannot afford to elect Republicans or Democrats who would be "responsible," and raise taxes.
The difference between us shocked and appalled folks and the David Brookses of the country is that they simply cannot imagine that things can get as bad as quickly as we know they can. Neither did the Greeks.
Our job is to describe as vividly and credibly as we can just how bad "bad" will be if we don't drop almost everything and start cutting entitlements and everything else next January.
If we can induce a sense of urgency in just a few of those not yet shocked and appalled -- we can win in November with politicians ready to cut today to save tomorrow.