Conservatives at the moment are evincing stratospheric levels of hubris. It is a nearly universal belief on the right that President Obama has exploded the deficit, voters have turned against him for this reason, and embraced the Republican vision of more limited government.
All these myths are usefully contained within Peggy Noonan's column today. Here's Noonan on Obama and the deficit:
The announcement subtly underscores the trope "The system is broken and progress through normal channels is impossible," which is the one Democrats prefer to "Boy did we mess up the past year and make things worse."
Here's Noonan boasting of the public backlash against spending:
It's easy to say that concern about federal spending is old, because it is. It's at least as old as Robert Taft, Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan. But the national anxiety about spending that we're experiencing now, and that is showing up in the polls, is new. The past eight years have concentrated the American mind. George W. Bush's spending, the crash and Barack Obama's spending have frightened people. It's not just "cranky right-wingers" who are concerned. If it were, the president would not have appointed his commission. Its creation acknowledges that independents are anxious, the center is alarmed—the whole country is. The people are ahead of their representatives in Washington, who are stuck in the ick of old ways.
Conservatives all my adulthood have said the American people were, on the issue of spending, the frog in the pot of water: The rising heat lulled him, and when the water came full boil, he wouldn't be able to jump out.
But that is the great achievement, if you will, of the past few years. The frog is coming awake at just the last moment. He is jumping out of the water.
Now, it's true, as it usually is, that Americans oppose spending in the abstract. But they also favor spending on programs in particular. The closest thing to a program Americans want to cut is foreign aid, and only 34% actually favor reducing it. A plurality or majority of Americans want to increase funding on just about every other program of any major size.
Is there anything specific Americans do want to do about the deficit? Yes: By enormous margins, they want to raise taxes on the rich:
Now, Republicans are going to make enormous gains in the 2010 elections. That, barring extraordinary circumstances, is what happens when you have midterm elections and double-digit unemployment. Republicans have managed to convince themselves that their gains will happen because the public has rejected Obama on ideological grounds and embraced conservatism. And then they will use their power to something the public unambiguously rejects, which is to reduce taxes on the rich.