With things still fleshing themselves out from Tuesday’s election, many proponents of big government are declaring small government principles dead in America. To a degree, they are right – our fiscal crisis is now going to get significantly worse as more Americans receive income from the federal government, and many Americans are thus incentivized to vote for more expansive government – but they are also wrong, as our fiscal crisis will force eventual budget sanity.
However, there is one other thing to keep in mind as we move forward: Americans may not have voted for small government candidates this week, but as the Washington Examiner’s Philip Klein notes , this is what many actually want. From his recent column:
But as tempting as it will be for analysts to pin the GOP’s 2012 defeat on an embrace of small-government extremism, the results from last night don’t actually bear this out.
According to exit polls as described by Politico, “53 percent of those surveyed said the government is doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals — a figure that’s risen 10 points since the 2008 election. Comparatively, 41 percent of voters said they believe government should be doing more.”
And there’s more:
And yet, the Romney-Ryan ticket obliterated Obama among voters over age 65, winning the group by a 12-point margin. That number not only beat John McCain’s performance among seniors, but also the five-point margin former President Bush enjoyed over John Kerry in 2004 — the year after Bush signed the Medicare prescription drug benefit into law.
At the same time, Republicans maintained control of the House of Representatives, which overwhelmingly passed versions of the Ryan budget this year and last.
Those who want to blame conservatives for Tuesday’s results will also point to Republican missed opportunities in the Senate. But here, too, it’s difficult to say that limited government extremism was to blame. In Wisconsin, Tommy Thompson was the Republican establishment candidate.…While they did support Richard Mourdock in the Indiana primary, polls showed him winning until a few weeks before the election, when he made a controversial comment about abortion in an instance of rape. This, not his position on federal spending, is what cost him the election.
And regarding independent voters:
If Romney lost the election because the electorate was rebelling against small-government extremism, it should be reflected in his numbers among independents. Yet that group of voters broke for Romney by a five-point margin, according to exit polls. Obama won because Democratic voters outnumbered Republicans. If anything, this would suggest that Romney didn’t do enough to rally the conservative base, though I believe that conclusion would go a bit too far.
These are the facts: Americans instinctively want smaller government. Yet as a nation we are incentivized towards wanting more government because of welfare programs, unemployment benefits, retirement programs, etc. And while this makes convincing Americans of the value of weaning ourselves away from a growing federal government more difficult, it means we still have a chance of doing so. We’ll simply have to go back to basics, remembering the totality of our principles beyond the petty tactics of winning this demographic or that demographic the professional politicians focus so much attention on. We must make certain our principles help everyone, regardless of race, creed, sex, or political persuasion.
Only the Tea Party is willing to do this hard work. So keep up your spirits – the battle for fiscal responsibility is not over yet.