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Reason Foundation

Not Paying Attention? You Wish

Tea Partiers have their eyes open. That's why they're mad.

David Harsanyi
October 27, 2010

Who's going to argue with Sen. John Kerry's recent claim that the American electorate "doesn't always pay that much attention to what's going on, so people are influenced by a simple slogan rather than the facts or the truth or what's happening"?

Hey, that's why John Kerry keeps his job. That's why a simple three-word slogan and a bunch of saccharine speeches can propel a fresh political face into a spectacularly failed presidency.

And that's why the Party of Intellect, Decency, and Selflessness has a hallowed duty to point out the hard facts and truths about its opponents, those Aqua Buddha-worshipping, witchcraft-loving, Talibanish, rape-approving, women-hating, foreign-influence-peddling brutes.

Or, as the president calls them, the "enemy," a group so masterfully devious it can swindle a nation but yet too dumb to take seriously.

Without a doubt, Kerry's deft prognosis of the electorate allows that this epidemic of ignorance most often sweeps the nation when Democrats lose elections. Its existence—like that of PBS or the Coast Guard—is a mystery.

But these particular midterm elections are more intensely focused on philosophical disagreements and public policy than any in memory.

If you've been paying attention, you know it's not Sharron Angle's and Ken Buck's sophisticated personalities, soaring orations, or spellbinding answers that make them competitive. It's their ideology—and the ideology of their opponents.

Tea Party types are interested in ideology, not just the economy. They will be disappointed at the first whiff of "bipartisanship" consensus on spending. They will be irate when Republicans fail to shut down unnecessary federal departments as promised. (As others have pointed out, if the GOP doesn't have the stomach to defund those nerds at NPR, how can we expect it to repeal Obamacare?)

Most elections aren't as historically momentous as partisans would have us believe, but many can shift the trajectory of the national conversation for a long time.

Now that the Tea Party has cleared the brush and lived to tell about it, the next round of candidates will be far less apprehensive in advocating free market reforms. In fact, the next round of economically libertarian candidates—folks who never would have thought of running against the establishment previously—are likely to be more polished, impressive, and intellectually prepared to make their case.

They've been paying attention.

A new Rasmussen poll finds that 75 percent of likely voters believe a free market economy is better than an economy managed by the government. When further broken down, 90 percent of "mainstream" voters prefer free markets.

Among the "Political Class"—which I believe is technically defined as "people who hate America"—only 34 percent feels that the free market is better, and 30 percent likes a government-managed economy.

Anyone "paying attention" can see that a managed economy is a stagnant economy. Anyone "paying attention" can see that as clearly as he can see Nov. 2. There have been few elections as clearly delineated by ideological differences in action as this one.

So despite the claims by Democrats that voters are misled or confused, trust me; an electorate paying attention is the last thing they want.

David Harsanyi is a columnist at The Denver Post and the author of Nanny State. Visit his website at www.DavidHarsanyi.com. This column first appeared at Reason.com.

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