Political Hay

The Tipping Point

The election next month is not about returning the Republican Party to power. It is about stepping back from a precipice.

By 10.4.10

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The reason that the mid-term election of 2010 is so important is that our county is at a critical tipping point.

The concept of the tipping point was popularized by the book of that name first published in 2000 by Malcolm Gladwell. In his definition, a tipping point is "the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point."

Gladwell was writing about social phenomenon, not politics or ideology, but the tipping point concept applies equally well to the latter. The election of 2008 put the United States on a threshold that, once crossed, would change the country forever.

The Democratic Party had finally reached its critical mass by winning the White House and both houses of Congress. The long-delayed Democratic dream had arrived: A president who was the most liberal in the nation's history, backed by a Congress with large enough majorities to run roughshod over the opposition.

Checks and balances were wiped away. The path was cleared for the final flowering of liberal policy. The "boiling point" was at hand, and Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid turned up the burners, eager to transform America. What followed was an effort to remake the economy: government takeovers of big banks, auto makers, all health care; rules and regulations to control industry, local schools and more; an explosion of Federal spending, handouts, subsidies and bribes ("cash for clunkers," mortgage bailouts) to make more and more voters dependent on government.

It was as if America were a huge Monopoly game board, and Obama had grabbed it and tilted it abruptly to the left, causing everything to slide -- houses, hotels, player's tokens, "Get out of Jail free" cards, cash -- to the left side of the board. Suddenly we were all sliding down to Baltic Avenue and everyone from Park Place and Boardwalk were labeled as greedy exploiters. "Go directly to jail" seemed a threatening possibility for large classes of people -- Wall Streeters, corporate executives, mortgage bankers, the "rich."

This truly was a game-changer for America, raising questions about the future of capitalism, individual liberty, the role and viability of state governments, the relevance of the Constitution. The sudden tilting of the playing field alarmed non-Leftist Americans. It gave rise to the tea party movement, and backbone to the weak Republican establishment,

Suddenly the country had a Resistance movement, standing athwart the flow of Obama history, shouting, "STOP!"

That brings us to this historical moment. If it was not clear during Obama's 2008 campaign (and he made deliberate efforts to obscure it) certainly in late 2010 it is clear where he wants to take the county--toward a European-style socialism, a command economy, driven by an all-powerful central government, determined to redistribute wealth and remake America as a multicultural, secular humanist state.

The election next month is not about returning the Republican Party to power in Washington. It is about stepping back from this tipping point, this precipice that Obama and the Pelosi-Reid Congress have led us to. There is a pervasive sense that this is momentous.

The alarm and the urgency that is felt by so many conservatives, independents, and even Democrats who feel they were duped in 2008, arises from the conviction that this may be a one-time chance to pull back from the edge. If American voters do not, with loud and clear voices, issue a commanding halt to the leftward slide next month, it may be too late in 2012 or beyond.

Obama and the Democrats see the stakes clearly and are desperately trying to divert voters' attention from this central question about the remaking of America. They need to make this election about how President George W. Bush's policies failed, or about the weakness of Republican Party leadership, or the flaws and sins of individual Republican or tea party candidates. The Democrats dare not run on their own ideas or their record in Congress, which they know is politically radioactive. They must somehow distract our gaze from the central question, from this tipping point they have delivered us to.

I do not believe a majority of my countrymen want to redefine America or overthrow what has made this nation a beacon of strength and hope to the world. That's what November is about. Only a devastating defeat of the party in power will send that message and pull America back from the tipping point.

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About the Author

James P. Gannon is a retired former Wall Street Journal reporter and newspaper editor. He lives in Virginia.