By George F. Will
The Washington Post
Thursday, November 6, 2008; Page A21
Graciously conceding as vice president in 1980, Walter Mondale spoke of voters wielding “their staggering power.” This year’s energized electorate did that, thereby proving, among other things, that bad governance is good for turnout, a fact that should give pause to people who think high rates of voting are unambiguous indicators of civic health.
In 2000, George W. Bush won 11 million (29 percent) more votes than Bob Dole won in 1996; in 2004, Bush won 11.6 million (23 percent) more than in 2000. This year the Republican surge receded. It is difficult running against Washington while one’s party controls the presidency. And given that the morning news on Election Day was that car sales and manufacturing activity were at their lowest levels in nearly 20 years in October, the evening news was unsurprising.
Although John McCain‘s loss was not as numerically stunning as the 1964 defeat of Barry Goldwater, who won 16 fewer states and 122 fewer electoral votes than McCain seems to have won as of this writing, Tuesday’s trouncing was more dispiriting for conservatives. Goldwater’s loss was constructive; it invigorated his party by reorienting it ideologically. McCain’s loss was sterile, containing no seeds of intellectual rebirth….