’12 may be good year for conservatives

January 1, 2012


— Although they have become prone to apocalyptic forebodings about the fragility of the nation’s institutions and traditions under the current president, conservatives should stride confidently into 2012. This is not because they are certain, or even likely, to defeat Barack Obama this year. Rather, it is because, if they emancipate themselves from their unconservative fixation on the presidency, they will see events unfolding in their favor. And when Congress is controlled by one party, as it might be a year from now, it can stymie an overreaching executive.

In 2011, for the first time in 62 years, America was a net exporter of petroleum products. For the foreseeable future, a specter is haunting progressivism, the specter of abundance. Because progressivism exists to justify a few people bossing around most people, and because progressives believe that only government’s energy should flow unimpeded, they crave energy scarcities as an excuse for rationing — by them — that produces ever-more-minute government supervision of Americans’ behavior.

Imagine what a horror 2011 was for progressives as Americans began to comprehend their stunning abundance of fossil fuels — beyond their two centuries’ supply of coal. Progressives responded with attempts to impede development of the vast proven reserves of natural gas and oil here and in Canada. They bent the willowy Obama to delay approval of the Keystone XL pipeline to carry oil from Canadian tar sands; they raised environmental objections to new techniques for extracting gas and “tight” oil from shale formations.

An all-purpose rationale for rationing in its many permutations has been the progressives’ preferred apocalypse, the fear of climate change. But environmentalism as the thin end of an enormous wedge of regulation and redistribution is a spent force. How many Americans noticed that the latest United Nations climate change confabulation occurred in December in Durban, South Africa?

The futility of this nullity signaled the end — probably for decades, if not forever — of a trivial pursuit that began 14 years ago with the Kyoto Protocol that the U.S. Senate would not even bring to a vote. The pursuit was for a 194-nation consensus obligating a few nations to transfer enormous wealth to many other nations’ governments, to be politically distributed by them, with the supposed effect of ending global warming, if such proves to be.

Meanwhile, back in the nation that probably would have ponied up the largest portion of this money, sales of the electric-powered Chevrolet Volt were falling short of General Motors’ goals even before reports about fire hazards in crash tests. And a Wall Street Journal headline proclaimed: “Americans Embrace SUVs Again.”

Because of the Energy Department’s myriad scandals and other misadventures as a venture capital firm (Solyndra, Beacon Power Corp., etc.), it is probable that 2011 will be remembered as the high-water mark of industrial policy. This is another way in which events are draining the Obama presidency of some of its power for mischief. If in November Republicans capture the Senate, which must confirm many senior officials of the executive branch and agencies, only weakness of Republican will can enable, for example, the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Labor Relations Board to continue being unconstrained instruments of presidential decrees.

Political logic suggests that, this year, Obama will try to rekindle the love of young voters with some forgiveness of student debts. But one-third of students do not borrow to pay college tuition. The average debt for those who do borrow to attend a four-year public institution is $22,000 and the average difference between the per-year earnings of college graduates and those with only a high school diploma is ... $22,000.

It will be interesting to see how such a bailout of young and privileged borrowers will appeal to voters, who will begin to be heard from in Iowa. Before this year is many months old, discerning conservatives may decide that Obama probably has been rescued by the Republican nominating electorate and hence it is time to begin focusing on two things other than the 2012 presidential election. One is capturing the Senate. The other is preparing the ground for a better presidential nomination competition in 2016.

In any case, nothing that happens this November will bring an apocalypse. America had 43 presidencies before the current one and will have many more than that after the end of this one in 2013 or 2017. Decades hence, it will look like most others, a pebble in the river of American history.

George Will is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group.


mloburgio 6 years, 5 months ago

What If the Tea Party Wins? They Have a Plan for the Constitution, and It Isn’t Pretty

It is difficult to count how many essential laws would simply cease to exist if the Tea Party won its battle to reshape our founding document, but a short list includes:

Social Security and Medicare Medicaid, children's health insurance, and other health care programs All federal education programs All federal antipoverty programs Federal disaster relief Federal food safety inspections and other food safety programs Child labor laws, the minimum wage, overtime, and other labor protections Federal civil rights laws


SnakeFist 6 years, 5 months ago

You'll never convince any rational person of your views so long as you label child labor laws and civil rights laws as "abuses of power". No one wants to live in your dystopia.

SnakeFist 6 years, 5 months ago

Child labor laws have been in place for a long time and no child is starving because of them. And I'd rather they get an education than make a few dollars a day in a sweatshop.

In spite of your contrarian complaining, the U.S. is a pretty good place to live.

SnakeFist 6 years, 5 months ago

You don't have a point. No child is starving in the U.S. for want of a sweatshop job. However, I'm sure the sweatshop owners are happy people like you want children to have the "freedom" to work those jobs.

pace 6 years, 5 months ago

You might need your children to go out an earn you money, maybe you drink? But most people in America actually want their kids to go to school and wanted them to be protected and prohibited from working in sweat shops. There are people who would prefer for kids to work for them real cheap rather than pay taxes that go to food stamps. I prefer my taxes to support food stamps rather than my vote going to someone who dreams of putting kids back into sweat shops. Me, I don't think kids should spend their little short time in factories. It is a better investment to see them educated, not exploited., I think kids should get an education.

pace 6 years, 5 months ago

Child labor laws protect poor families.

pace 6 years, 5 months ago

YOU people. what a bunch of drivel. I do think of consequences and of responsibility. There is not a child in this country who I don't owe what protection from harm I can command. You think there is no use to protect children. I think there is. I believe in law, I don't agree with you that we should not protect children by law, be it child abuse, pedophiles, or child labor. We might not be able to stop all abuse but we sure don't need to condone it. Shrug your shoulders all you want, say you feel our country is impotent, but our country will surprise you. We can and will stand up against abuse against children.

pace 6 years, 5 months ago

If you know of a sweat shop where children are being illegally worked, do something about it. Don't blame me for others or your illegal activity. If you know of a sweat shop, you should act, not blame others.

gudpoynt 6 years, 5 months ago

So allow child exploitation again, just so some ten year olds can bag groceries? Good logic.

Passing child labor laws did not lead to an increase in child exploitation in labor markets. In fact, it did just the opposite. Big time.

For that matter, illegalizing anything will push those who insist on continuing the practice, into the black market. By definition. Doesn't have any bearing on the consensus toward the underlying morality of the act the law is intended to curtail.

In fact, the opposite. The more the practice is universally condemned by moral standards, the smaller the black market will be... Due to less participation and less demand. Child exploitation in labor markets for instance.

On the other hand, if a practice is made illegal, but near universal condemnation by moral standards is not there, then the black market will thrive. Take booze during prohibition. Or marijuana today.

Your main argument is that child labor laws have had the unintended consequences of preventing capable youth from fulfilling safe and humane positions.

But rational people understand that children can still work farm jobs, they can still do cash jobs for neighbors and such, all the while safe from prosecution... except for maybe a handful of ridiculous outlier scenarios, that libertarians and republicans alike will point to as the norm... That's their specialty, convincing many that an outlier is the norm.

Rational people will see the benefits of child labor laws as massively, massively outweighing the unintended negative consequences.

Which is probably why their repeal is nowhere near any rational politician's radar screen.

gudpoynt 6 years, 5 months ago

Your head is in the sand if you think child labor laws did not... are not... preventing exploitation of children in the labor force.

In. The. Sand.

pace 6 years, 5 months ago

So what is your stand on other child abuse? If it was decriminalized then child abuse would cease to be a problem?

cato_the_elder 6 years, 5 months ago

Actually, much of the "social legislation" at the federal level which liberals have inflicted on the free citizens of America has had no support in the U.S. Constitution, which has been "interpreted" by liberal Supreme Court Justices for over 70 years to justify ever-greater federal government intrusion into people's lives. The Commerce Clause, for example, was intended only to allow the federal government to regulate commerce among the several states, which had become a nightmare under the Articles of Confederation with states in effect attempting to regulate each other's commercial activities (river traffic, for example). The Commerce Clause has been grossly twisted to justify one federal power-grab after another, the latest being Obamacare, which is patently unconstitutional.

Liberals have little to worry about, however, despite their lemming-like addiction to posting drivel from left-wing blog sites attempting to scare people, because under stare decisis the U.S. Supreme Court isn't about to undo 70 years of earlier jurisprudence, no matter how bad some of it has been. It can, however, stem the tide of further bad decisions, and what a majority of the Court does with Obamacare will be the most significant case in decades. If the mandate to buy health insurance is not stricken down as unconstitutional, there will be no human conduct, whether by way of personal action or inaction, that the federal government cannot regulate.

Of course, as Will points out in his column, liberals would welcome that.

jafs 6 years, 5 months ago

Stare decisis didn't seem to stop the conservative court from undoing a long history of supporting campaign finance regulations with CU.

cato_the_elder 6 years, 5 months ago

Jafs, the Citizens United case was a victory for the rights of free citizens under the First Amendment over the federal regulation of their conduct in the political arena. That's exactly the point I was making.

Paul R Getto 6 years, 5 months ago

If corporations have the same rights, they should assume the same responsibilities. The CEO and the board of directors must be subject to hard time in real prisons when the corporation is caught breaking the law. Fair is fair, right?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 5 months ago

No, in the corporate/capitalist way of thinking, unfair is fair. Or is it that fair is unfair?

jafs 6 years, 5 months ago

"under stare decisis the U.S. Supreme Court isn't about to undo 70 years of earlier jurisprudence"

SnakeFist 6 years, 5 months ago

The Supreme Court was created by the Constitution, the Justices are, almost always, trained in Constitutional law and, in any event, are duly appointed under the Constitution, and yet every narcissistic conservative/libertarian like you thinks he knows more about the Constitution. Funny.

jafs 6 years, 5 months ago


And, yet, there are plenty of disagreements among those justices, on a variety of things.

That leads one to believe that there is room for interpretation, even among well educated people.

SnakeFist 6 years, 5 months ago

I agree with you, Jafs; reasonable people can disagree.

However, Cato didn't simply say he disagrees with certain Court decisions, he said they have no support in the Constitution, i.e., they're unconstitutional. Cato isn't qualified to make that determination, and he certainly isn't as qualified as a Justice to make that determination. The problem is people like Cato who not only have an opinion (which is fine) but think their opinion is always right, no matter how little they know about the subject or how much less qualified they are than the person they're arguing with.

cato_the_elder 6 years, 5 months ago

I'm entirely qualified to judge whether Obamacare is constitutional, and am certainly as qualified as anyone on the U.S. Supreme Court is to do so. I've studied constitutional law for decades.

Have you?

SnakeFist 6 years, 5 months ago

"...am certainly as qualified as anyone on the U.S. Supreme Court is to do so."

Thanks for making my point. What else are you qualified to do? Fly the space shuttle or, perhaps, brain surgery?

cato_the_elder 6 years, 5 months ago

I do not fly space shuttles or do brain surgery, but I am indeed as qualified as anyone on the U.S. Supreme Court to discuss constitutional law. Again, I've studied constitutional law for decades. Have you?

cato_the_elder 6 years, 5 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Fossick 6 years, 5 months ago

Bingo. Sanctions are designed to make the little people miserable enough to overthrow the government. When they are not powerful enough to do so, as in NK or Cuba, little people starve. Sanctions over the long term are worse than war properly conducted.

While I won't argue that we'll get much out of trade with Cuba (Cuba has great cigars and maybe some classic cars to offer us), that's not the point. After a half a century of sanctions and Castros, it ought to be obvious even to the dumbes...ahem, most loyal Republican that the first is no cure for the second.

If you want to develop Democracy, you need to develop a middle class. If you want a middle class, you need prosperity over time. If you want prosperity over time, you need trade. So let's do it.

weeslicket 6 years, 5 months ago

huh. and all this time i thought you were a christian.

weeslicket 6 years, 5 months ago

true. but the mouthpiece was falsehopenochange.

bballwizard 6 years, 5 months ago

I have a good idea why don't you get some friends. Why you say? 1 - you would have gone out for new years eve and instead of wishing you were George Will and writing these stupid comments you would be still asleep not creeping me out already and 2012 just started. My god get a life.

bad_dog 6 years, 5 months ago

Don't worry, they'll save you a spot at the front...

Be sure to bring your bottle of "New Skin".

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 5 months ago

Looks like it's going to be a banner year for willful ignorance and straw men from Georgie.

SnakeFist 6 years, 5 months ago

"Because progressivism exists to justify a few people bossing around most people..."

That's not progressivism, that's capitalism.

SnakeFist 6 years, 5 months ago

No Liberty_Belle, you've won that award many times over. Nevertheless, I'm flattered. Given your crazy ideas, anything you think is ignorant (e.g., child labor laws and civil rights laws) is probably correct.

Capitalism does not result in fairness or equality, it results in gross inequality for the vast majority of people who only accept it because they cling to the naive belief that they may one day win the lottery and join their bourgeoisie masters.

SnakeFist 6 years, 5 months ago

Capitalism is slavery for everyone but those very few who have all the wealth. The issue isn't fairness and equality in outcome - I acknowledge that's a bad idea - but capitalism eliminates fairness and equality in opportunity, i.e., the game is rigged and you're not smart enough to realize it.

If you would take a few courses in economics, philosophy, and law - rather than simply repeating the same rejected dogma - we might be able to have an intelligent conversation.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 5 months ago

For the hard-core capitalist, the only "fair" way for the world to operate is to be grindingly unfair to everyone but the captains of capitalism. God or Darwin or Mises or Friedman or somebody told them so, so it must be true.

camper 6 years, 5 months ago

" Because progressivism exists to justify a few people bossing around most people, and because progressives believe that only government’s energy should flow unimpeded, they crave energy scarcities as an excuse for rationing — by them — that produces ever-more-minute government supervision of Americans’ behavior. "

As smart as Will thinks he is, this is a terribly false statement on so many levels. He does paint with a broad brush and generalize doesn't he? Will is just a paid hack writer preaching to his choir (if I might generalize the way he does).

Cant_have_it_both_ways 6 years, 5 months ago

Nothing will get better until all of you that are mooching off of the taxpayer are cut off. This includes paying for your own books (Library) and transportation (EmpT).

Richard Heckler 6 years, 5 months ago

Hey George Will conservatives are reckless liberal spenders and idiots and business management and hell of the rights of women and voter rights. Get rid of this narrow minded conservative lot!!!

Now Fiscal Conservative and Socially Responsible democrats and republicans are in demand.

But you and your narrow minded conservatives are out of the question! The RINO dominated repub party has been a colossal failure in all aspects of government for the past 31 years. Go away.

Flap Doodle 6 years, 5 months ago

merrill, there's a thing called a comma. It can be your friend sometimes.

beatrice 6 years, 5 months ago

Hopefully, it will be a good year for the nation.

Mike Ford 6 years, 5 months ago

follow the pied piper of destruction from 2000 to 2008, with no bid haliburton contracts and the patriot act and the embezzling military contraqtors, run the country into the ground and pass the bailout before Obama is even president....act like it's 1781 and the articles of confederation are the new vogue....let the sanctified former dixiecrat religious supremacist racists create non issues with sharia law roping in those dumb enough to believe this nonsense...speak the racist code language of neocons calling people thugs and acting sanctified desperately trying to grab the empirical high ground as your politically prejudiced thugs try to get ready to show the same prejudicial attitude in the scotus as they did in Gore V Bush and Citizens United. Claim class war as you've benefitted from it for centuries. Use the Doctrine of Discovery from Johnson V McIntosh to steal lands from indigenous peoples to bring your immigrant nahollo anumpuli to sa yakni. American eyes...American eyes...see the world from American eyes....see the land rob us blind and leave nothing behind. So glad the rest of the world sees you all as trailer billies as the Canadians told my father in Kenora, Ontario, this summer.

rtwngr 6 years, 5 months ago

Don't worry. The Cherokee Prophecies are about to be realized and then all you indigenous people will have the last laugh.

Mike Ford 6 years, 5 months ago

firstly, I don't think Kurt Cobain would appreciate someone like you or your ilk appropriating Nirvana's images but that's to be expected from people with no originality and no new ideas except the failed ideas of an alzheimer's afflicted ex actor who was in office from 1980 to 1988. Better yet....name five signers of the declaration of independence and name the two state based plans of government that were in consideration during the evolution of the US Government in the colonial times....you people claim to know more about the US Constitution or is that what one of your thought programmers who wrote this article feed your brain with....if you don't know this stuff it's going to be sad to know publically that a so called "Savage" like me knows more about your country than you do... that's the luxury of not knowing much about history or biology or any of the other subjects mentioned in that goldie oldies song that sums up much of what you know math.....nothing.....

Armstrong 6 years, 5 months ago

Kurt Gobang's greatest contribution to " msuic " - silence

rtwngr 6 years, 5 months ago

It is in poor taste to speak of the dead unless it is good; he's dead. Good.

Flap Doodle 6 years, 5 months ago

...rant...rave...run-on sentence... (...from ... a ... source...)

Mike Ford 6 years, 5 months ago

bad spelling and nothing smart to say....you two are good....

Mike Ford 6 years, 5 months ago

the term out there reaffirms your intellectual status as a kansas simpleton who does nothing but bait arguements with pointed comments of little intellectual value.

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