Webster's defines a catalyst as an agent that provokes or speeds significant change or action. That's kind of the way I view Barack Obama these days. There are lots of ways to spin this analogy. His supporters will say he catalyzed a whole new segment of the electorate to win the presidential election. They'll say he took young people and minorities and transformed them from a politically apathetic voting bloc into a force to be reckoned with. That's probably true. But he also stirred up a conservative and libertarian hornets nest in opposition to everything he stands for.
It's worth remembering the words of Japanese Admiral Yamamoto reflecting on the consequences of Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor. He said, "I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve."
Today's sleeping giant is the conservative base of the American electorate. Lulled into such a slumber that they barely raised an objection when their own Republican Party was clearly marching them down the path to big government under George W. Bush. No Child Left Behind, a new Medicare drug entitlement, and unprecedented growth in the federal deficit elicited barely a peep from the majority of conservatives.
The 2008 election was a wake up call. Increased Democratic majorities in both the House and the Senate, combined with the election of the most liberal president since FDR, or maybe the most liberal president ever, have startled a somnolent America into the realization that we are in jeopardy of forfeiting our national identity based on free markets and free enterprise for a social democratic European model that most Americans reject. The election of Barack Obama may turn out to have been a blessing in disguise. Though I must admit, if this is a blessing, then it is indeed, a really good disguise.
Conservatives are asleep no more. Witness the Tea Parties all over the nation. The typical remark from a Tea Party attendee is, "I'm not usually very political, and I've never done anything like this before, but I couldn't sit by and watch this happen and not try to do something to stop it." And though the reaction is largely partisan, the movement is drawing in huge numbers of independent voters and significant numbers of Democrats. This administration is over-reaching, and they are alienating a significant portion of their coalition. This has been a call to action for all those opposed to the expansion of the welfare state. Conservatives are examining their values and challenging even their own Republican politicians to meet the standards that they demand or face opposition as happened in New York's 23rd Congressional District recently. The liberal press was quick to point out how this backfired in this particular battle with the election of a Democrat, but there is plenty of evidence to support the position that this race was an aberration. The combination of local resentment at outside national interference, and a not particularly articulate conservative candidate with a less than commanding understanding of local issues made this contest less than typical.
Conservatives and libertarians are motivated as they have rarely been before. The reckless actions of this administration have filled us with a "terrible resolve", to quote Admiral Yamamoto. If we can maintain this resolve into next year and beyond, there is hope we can defeat large portions of the Democrat's statist agenda in this Congress, remake the next Congress in 2010, and oust Barack Obama in 2012. And if we're lucky, the Republican administration that follows will be one that will remember the small government principles that will have gotten them elected. More importantly, they will know that they are being scrutinized by a newly awakened electorate. They will know that if they violate those small government principles, they do so at their political peril, as they will incur the wrath of a newly vigilant conservative voter.