Years from now, we will look back on Jan. 20, 2009, as the day the era of conservative dominance we might call the Age of Reagan finally came to an end. Twenty-eight years ago, the 40th president looked out over the National Mall and proclaimed, "Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem." He went on, "It is no coincidence that our present troubles parallel and are proportionate to the intervention and intrusion in our lives that result from unnecessary and excessive growth of government."
It's quickly becoming a cliché to call the 2008 election "historic," and we haven't even seen the passel of books about the race that will no doubt be hitting shelves six months or so from now. But before we become consumed with the blizzard of activity that will accompany President Obama's first 100 days, it's worth taking a look back at, not just what happened in 2008 but what didn't happen (and I should note that the week after the election, Prospect editor Mark Schmitt graded some of the pre-election theories; some of what he discussed is mentioned here). In fact, there may be no election in memory in which so many predictions turned out to be so wrong.
Over the last eight years, many conservatives, particularly the radio and television hosts who enjoy such loud and lucrative megaphones, have been forced to navigate some difficult rhetorical waters. When your side controls the White House, the Congress (as it did until two years ago), the judiciary, and the business world, how do you argue that you're part of an oppressed group being held down by The Man? It isn't easy, but they did it nonetheless. The "elite" they bellowed at day after day is not those who actually hold power. It's obscure college professors, Hollywood actors, the city council of a town you don't live in, and nonprofit organizations who advocate for things like poor people or the environment or civil liberties.
A lot will change on Jan. 20, when George W. Bush takes one last wistful glance around the Oval Office before heading back to Texas, and a few thousand Republicans begin finding out whether having "former Bush administration official" on their resum é is a help or a hindrance in getting that next job. It's more than just a new set of policy goals and a round of executive orders undoing some of Bush's worst offenses. For the first time in eight long years, the federal government will be managed by people who have a clue about what they're doing.
Just over two years into George W. Bush’s presidency, The American Prospect featured Bush on its cover under the headline, "The Most Dangerous President Ever." At the time, some probably thought it a bit over the top. But nearly six years later, it's worth taking a moment to reflect on the multifaceted burden that will soon be lifted from our collective shoulders.