…I'm beginning to wonder if the political moment is much, much, more significant than most of us realize. The rules may have changed in ways no one would have predicted two years ago. And perhaps 10 years from now we'll look back on this moment and it will all seem so obvious.
…But what about when the rules change? For nearly a century now, the rules have said that tough economic times make big government more popular. For more than 40 years it has been a rule that environmental disasters -- and scares over alleged ones -- help environmentalists push tighter regulations. According to the rules, Americans never want to let go of an entitlement once they have it. According to the rules, populism is a force for getting the government to do more, not less. According to the rules, Americans don't care about the deficit during a recession.
And yet none of these rules seem to be applying; at least not too strongly. Big government seems more unpopular today than ever. The Gulf oil spill should be a Gaiasend for environmentalists, and yet three quarters of the American people oppose Obama's drilling ban. Sixty percent of likely voters want their newly minted right to health care repealed. Unlike Europe, where protestors take to the streets to save their cushy perks and protect a large welfare state, the Tea Party protestors have been taking to the streets to trim back government.
…As a conservative, I'm very reluctant to believe that the rules change easily or often. And there's no end of explanations for the political climate that would leave the rules intact. But it's just becoming harder and harder to shake the feeling that something bigger than politics as usual is at work.