BLANKLEY: Winds of change from the West

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Historically, the American public - confident, independent and undemanding - has not expected much out of Washington. Live your silvern lives of limousines, private jets, power and celebrity; just do no permanent damage to the nation.

But in the past two years, our Babylon on the Potomac - with its irrational and unconscionable saddling of our grandchildren with multitrillion-dollar debt (and its bizarre foreign policy of loathing our friends and ourselves and loving our enemies) - has vexed the public into a state of deep fear and anguish.

However, Americans don’t stay scared long - we quickly convert fear to anger and anger to action. And so, now, two years of national panic and fear are being returned to sender in Washington. Now it is the ruling elite who find their daytime thoughts fretful and their nighttime sleep fitful. Welcome to the troubled mind of Washington in spring 2010.

Democrats look fearfully westward across the Potomac River, wondering how harsh will be the people’s judgment against them for their disgraceful behavior.

Republicans look fearfully inward, wondering whether their own inadequate performances in the preceding decade entitle them to the public trust. (The answers are: to the Democrats, very harsh, and to the Republicans, no, they are not entitled to the trust.)

These justified moods of Democratic Party fear of public wrath and Republican Party indulgence in self-loathing caused a particularly silly reaction to last week’s elections in Pennsylvania, Arkansas and Kentucky.

The 8 percent victory edge for the late John Murtha’s staffer in Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District drove the Democrats maniacally to the conclusion that they are almost home and dry in the November elections. That same election depressed the Republicans into thinking they are unworthy and have blown a sure, dominating victory in November.

Likewise, Democrats are thrilled to believe that the philosophically eccentric Rand Paul’s win in Kentucky means the public will turn against strange outsiders in November. Republicans worry that if Tea Party-supported candidates don’t behave like good little housebroken Washington Republicans, all is lost.

In both cases: Nonsense. Of the Kentucky vote, more in future columns. In Pennsylvania’s 12th District election: It was across-the-board anomalous. The 12th was classified as a swing district only because it is blue-collar and went for John Kerry in 2004 and John McCain in 2008. But this is the district, his own, that John Murtha degradingly called racist. Thus, perhaps, the McCain vote in 2008. After all, this 2-1 Democratic district voted for Al Gore over George W. Bush by a staggering 55-44 percent in the 50-50 presidential race of 2001. The anomaly was the McCain-Obama vote.

Also, as the beneficiary of more pork and earmarks than almost any district in the country, it doubtlessly was more likely to vote for continuity - especially as the Democratic candidate was a top Murtha staffer who dispensed much of the pork but nonetheless said he opposed the entire unpopular Democratic-Obama agenda of the past two years.

Also, Democratic turnout was very high because loyal Democratic Party voters came out in droves to punish the top-of-the-ticket turncoat Snarlin’ Arlen Specter - thus reversing the intensity factor, which, nationwide, is anti-Democrat.

For the Washington Republicans to fall to pieces over this result shows just how fragile is the Washington Republican Party’s self-esteem.

The fundamental fact of the November 2010 election is that the public intends to signal with its votes as strongly as it can that Washington must reverse direction across the board. The Washington GOP, rickety and unworthy as it may be, is likely to be the beneficiary of this public wrath. Its day of judgment will come in 2012 if, given the power, it bungles and betrays again.

While Washington may be nerve-racked, there is a lot of positive energy around the country, and many able conservative candidates are ready to charge into the general election.

Consider California’s 11th District. This is a Republican-leaning district (Cook Partisan Voting Index of plus-3; median income $61,000; strongly anti-tax) held by the conservative Richard Pombo for many years before his defeat in 2006. The Tea Party is active in the district.

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