The year 2016 has not only brought us one of the most memorable American elections, it has also brought a remarkable post-election period. In the wake of Trump’s victory, American leftists have experienced a very public and embarrassing emotional meltdown. Instead of engaging in reasoned and dispassionate self-reflection, Democrats are attempting to ascribe their failure to a somewhat fanciful theory involving interference by the Russian government. To a considerable degree, the left’s hysteria reflects the unstable mental state of the typical person who is attracted to the political left. After all, if the Democrats had won, it is hard to imagine the right would have displayed the same hysterical reaction, since indeed they did not following the two election victories by the career leftist, Barack Obama.
The left’s emotionalism, however, is not completely unjustified; their despair is rooted in a correct assessment of how much this election has cost them. In this election, the left stood at the threshold of securing power–not just for four years–but for a generation or more. As president, Hillary would have been able to make at the very least two, and quite possibly as many as four, appointments to the Supreme Court, thus guaranteeing leftist control for decades. Hillary also had the opportunity to import millions more Democrat voters from the Third World, thus nearly extinguishing Republican chances of winning elections at the national level. In short, the left anticipated a final and total victory over their despised adversaries, only to have the dream turn to ashes in their mouths. No wonder they are so distraught.
Of course, none of this would matter much if the federal government weren’t so involved in our lives. But we have gotten to this point because leftists have spent the last one hundred years expanding the power of government. That worked out great for the left as long as they were the ones in control. Now, however, they face the agony of turning over all that power to someone they view as anathema. The left never learns the lesson that every time you empower the government to give you something, you also empower it to take away.
In a more perfect world, elections wouldn’t matter so much because the government wouldn’t be so big. That’s how things were back in the late 19th century, when the federal government didn’t do a whole lot. It’s hard to imagine, for instance, that the course of history would have been altered very much if the Cleveland-Blaine election of 1884 had been reversed.
Critics of the two major parties have often claimed that ‘there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between them.’ But in truth, there’s a world of difference between the views and agendas of the people Hillary would have appointed and those that Donald Trump is already appointing. If Trump manages to appoint two or more strict constructionists to the Court, and also manages to significantly reduce immigration, his presidency could end up being the most consequential since FDR’s. And that’s not entirely a comforting thought, because elections should not matter this much.
The problem was summarized succinctly a number of years ago by Jerry Pournelle.
We have always known that eternal vigilance is the price of freedom. It’s worse now, because capture of government is so much more important than it once was. There was a time when there was enough freedom that it hardly mattered which brand of crooks ran government. That has not been true for a long time — not during most of your lifetimes, and for much of mine — and it will probably never be true again.
Indeed, the fact that elections are so consequential is a reflection of our political system’s dysfunction. The government is far too big, and too involved in our lives.