So why do so many conservatives feel disgruntled, disappointed, bored, or frustrated with politics at the moment?
Republicans look around, see a country and world in chaos, and don’t understand why they’re not seeing a broad, angry reaction to President Obama and his allies in Congress. As far as we’re concerned, we’ve been vindicated by events. Leaving no troops in Iraq — “combat forces” or not — left a vacuum for ISIS. The prospects for Afghanistan aren’t much more promising. Far from being “on the run,” the Islamist threat is spreading and intensifying.
Forget that 5.9 percent unemployment rate; most Americans are gripped by deep, far-reaching, deeply embedded economic pessimism. Wages are stagnant. There’s a strange lack of hiring even as posted job openings increase. The biggest incentive for private industry is to pay sufficient tribute to the political class; lobbying Washington remains a $3 billion–a–year industry, as the incentives for crony capitalism and favor-seeking remain as strong as ever. A budget deficit of $486 billion is considered a good sign.
Democrats will boast that Obamacare has reduced the number of Americans without insurance — without providing affordable insurance for everyone, as it promised — and ignore the fact that this has mostly been done by expanding Medicaid. (The issue of entitlements will be kicked down the road, once again.) The promises about keeping plans and doctors were, as skeptics charged, cynical happy talk; ill-informed liberals are shocked to learn their premiums are going up.
Most conservatives have been calling for tougher and more-thorough border security for years. This summer we saw the humanitarian crisis of tens of thousands of children crossing the border. Now there are persistent rumors of ISIS trying to come across the border from Mexico; even if the rumors don’t pan out, we’ve been hearing for months about the number of ISIS fighters with Western passports who could easily slip into the country.
In a highly symbolic symbol of rot at the top, a series of stories in the Washington Post revealed embarrassing mistakes and cover-ups at the U.S. Secret Service. Now a new allegation claims investigators were pressured “to remove information that could have been embarrassing to [the Department of Homeland Security] and/or to the Obama Administration in an election year.” Allegedly not even a 25-year-old aide can be held accountable for unacceptable behavior, if his father is a major Democratic donor.
The president asserts that test scores and college enrollment are up and his audiences applaud, oblivious to the fact that the most recent figures indicate the opposite.
Take your pick; there’s no shortage of things to be outraged about. Hundreds of millions wasted on state insurance exchanges that don’t work. The IRS abuses. Lois Lerner, refusing to answer questions from Congress. No one at the State Department getting fired over the security decisions leading up to Benghazi. Assurances about Ebola that don’t pan out.
Republicans are ‘blah’ about the midterms because they’ve lost faith that winning them will make a difference. Obama’s contempt for Congress, and lack of interest in working with it on his true priorities, is obvious. He’s pledged to unilaterally rewrite immigration enforcement to suit his needs. Large chunks of Obamacare are adjusted, nullified, improvised, and revised on the fly with no change to the written law. The president begins wars without waiting for any authorization for the use of military force. The U.S. attorney general is held in contempt of Congress with no real consequence.
No one can blame conservatives for being frustrated to the point of fury. But if American rank-and-file conservatives and Republicans conclude that the game is rigged, that it’s not worth playing, and withdraw from political life . . . then that will be the ultimate triumph of this president.