One of my favorite little Chunks o' History is The Great Disappointment. Short version: William Miller uses hints from the Bible to predict a specific day for the return of Jesus -- October 22, 1844. Thousands of people waited, some climbing up on their roofs so as not to miss the Arrival...
Unfortunately, Jesus decided to hit Skybar instead. His movement ridiculed, his followers dispersed into other sects (including the Seventh Day Adventists), Miller coined this day "the Great Disappointment."
I bring this up only because I've recently received batches of e-mails asking how I can be compliant in the coming socialist/Marxist government of Barack Obama. That's odd enough, but the McCain campaign has actively used the idea that Obama is some sort of closet Marxist, or open socialist. Not only that, a lot of the rhetoric by mainstream conservative leaders has been about how America will be fundamentally changed if Obama wins. I don't think I'm far off in pointing out that a lot of the mainstream conservative rhetoric here is downright apocalyptic. A lot -- not all, but a lot -- of McCain/Palin supporters are utterly convinced that Barack Obama's America will be the socialist wasteland they've been fearing their entire adult lives.
So what happens when ... it doesn't happen?
Matt Yglesias and Ezra Klein can disagree all they want, but when push comes to shove, most of Obama's policies are magnificently boring. I had a friend just today say "But John, you're in that top 1%! Your taxes are going to go up!" To which I replied: "Strangely, I can live with the idea of my taxes going from 36% to 39.5%. That's not exactly nationalizing the means of production."
Obama's health care plan was the most conservative of the three major Democratic candidates' plans, the only one that left the insurance companies not only intact but with a major role in providing guaranteed coverage. If you have employer-based health care, your life will not change one jot. As noted, taxes will go down for the middle class and jump to from 36% to 39.5% for the top -- and frankly, that ain't gonna fund the re-education camps. His proposed capital gains tax rate is lower than Ronald Reagan's.
Supreme Court appointments will probably insure Roe v. Wade survives, but that's just a stasis from the 70's. Gay rights will remain the provenance of individual states. I personally wouldn't mind harsher prosecution of churches that blatantly violate the separation of Church and State, but frankly that's unlikely. Evolution issues will continue to be resolved at the state court level ... in short, barring unspeakable terrorist acts or some sort of natural disaster, the next four to eight years are going to look a lot like right now, but with more science guys hanging around in government offices and nominally fewer closeted-gay sex scandals in politics.
All to say -- what happens when the Socialist Nightmare never arrives? I mean, it's been a useful shadow threat for years, a lurking monster that lost a little power after the fall of the Soviet Union, but still had some spark thanks to several generations raised with a primal reaction to the very word. It was the last big wrench in the toolbox, and not one you wanted to pull out ot often.
But the best monsters are always the ones just offscreen. In their thrashing for purchase against Senator Obama, Senator McCain's campaign may have over-reached. An awful lot of conservative leaders have declared that an Obama presidency is October 22, 1844 in the great battle of freedom versus socialism. Interesting to see what happens when the people who've been fed a steady diet of terror images -- state-run medical care with month-long waits, abortion kiosks in the mall and forced gay-friendly kindergarten education -- encounter instead a higher minimum wage, guaranteed health care, and the occasional bit of science-based policy.
This, indeed was why McCain's campaign could never score a serious hit. Despite the cries of "Marxism" and waving the bloody shirt of 60's radicalism, Senator Obama has cultivated a studiously boring policy presence. Chris and I were talking in the writer's room the other day, about the 30 minute ad buy that aired tonight. Chris was wondering what it was supposed rto accomplish.
"Nothing," I said. "In the best possible scenario, it's so boring that people turn it off halfway through. He's already got the people he inspired. What he has to do now is get people who used to be uncomfortable with the idea of a black president, and make them so comfortable that they're even bored with the idea."
" 'Obama's not like those other black people.' He's like Rob down in Accounting.' "
I think the same thing will happen now, with the Socialist door the McCain campaign opened. Eight years from now "Socialist!" will be met with "There you go again."