“Why do voters hate incumbents?” asks Glenn Greenwald.
One reason why media mavens seem reluctant, even unable, to grapple with this question is because it so plainly falls outside their familiar, comfortable narratives. Contrary to efforts earlier this year to depict the problem as one aimed at Democratic incumbents due to the unpopular health care plan and the growing “tea party” movement, Republican voters—as demonstrated in Florida, Utah, and last night in Kentucky—clearly hate their own party’s leadership at least as much as the animosity directed toward Democratic incumbents. The trend is plainly trans-partisan and trans-ideological, and the establishment political media has a very difficult time understanding or explaining dynamics about which that is true.
I share Greenwald’s hopeful view that throughout the country an anti-establishment disposition is brewing strong. I also share at least some of his reservations about the political views of many of the people upset at the current government—but this is always true and was certainly true for me under Bush. The real hope is in the prospect of Americans adopting a more consistent ideological commitment to liberty. The establishment is often on shaky ground with millions of people at any given time. While the discontent with Washington has probably ballooned in recent years, there is always the risk that the opposition will become co-opted when the other party rises back to party, as usually happens. On the other hand, if the growing realization that Bush and Obama are not very different after all and that the leadership of both parties is irredeemably corrupt is any indication, there is the real chance this could turn to an even more fundamental public understanding of the problem with massive and unlimited central political power as a matter of principle. Americans are frequently upset at the powers that be, but they must learn to oppose the power itself. Can this happen? Yes, especially if Americans finally cast away the false distinction between personal and economic liberty that the modern left and right thrive on, and the false distinction between the inherent nature of foreign intervention and the inherent nature of domestic intervention.