Call it the Republican betrayal.
But understand first that, for all the faults that inevitably accompany politics, people in that party have stood for many good things. They actually like the Constitution. They believe in limits to government that otherwise is sure to inflict oppression and unintended penalties on people. They get it that some things are worth preserving in society, especially in an exceptional society.
So Republicans graciously fought back against the worst of the office-holding Democrats, meaning most of them, officials who once called themselves “liberals” until they so tarnished that designation that they began calling themselves “progressives” instead. “Liberalism” once indicated something noble. It has as its root the Latin word “liber,” meaning free, and the liberals who emerged from the Enlightenment put the principle of freedom first as they simultaneously struggled for principled rationality.
Timothy Ferris, in an outstanding 2010 book, “The Science of Liberty,” says the scientific revolution from that 17th- and 18th-century era had a mate — political revolution — and the result was spreading freedom and rights and the ultimate rescue of “billions from poverty, ignorance, fear and an early grave.” He is all for liberalism in the old sense, but not for progressivism and leftism that “put the force of government behind efforts to create greater political and economic equality even if personal freedoms are abridged in the process.”
Ferris, who has his complaints about conservatives, too, grasps the worst of progressivism. He sees how it wrecks equality of opportunity as it tries to coerce equality of outcome and fosters presumptuous governmental intrusiveness made unending by a discomforting fact: Electoral turnovers often leave costly, currently useless old programs in place.
As we saw how many of President Barack Obama’s programs were downright destructive from the start, on top of being largely useless, many of us imagined something different. We hoped Republicans could work their way to more power in the 2014 elections and then prudently, intelligently turn things around, refusing to let the bad sit there sneering at us.