NEW YORK - Ronald Reagan called the 1964 election "a time for choosing." Tuesday's election yielded a time for bewilderment.
Given his record, it is astonishing that President Barack Obama won re-election. He should have lost, big time. Despite an $833 billion stimulus and $5.6 trillion in fresh national debt, the economy crawls forward with 2 percent growth. Shovel-ready projects were not shovel ready. The Department of Energy has generated some 60,000 "green" jobs -- at $578,333 each. When Obama arrived, the unemployment rate was 7.8 percent. It's now 7.9 percent. Nonetheless, Obama is the first president to get re-elected with joblessness above 7.2 percent since FDR in 1936.
Serious analysts like Michael Barone, co-author of "The Almanac of American Politics," forecast 315 electoral votes for Mitt Romney. Accurate since 1980, the University of Colorado Boulder's model predicted 330 electoral votes for Romney. In fact, Romney secured 206 electoral votes, with Florida still too close to call.
Reputed uber-genius Karl Rove reconfirmed that he is the most overrated living participant in American public life. As "the architect" of profligate "compassionate conservatism," Rove helped smash the GOP's reputation for fiscal discipline. This still hurts Republicans. As Reuters' Tim Reid wrote: "Early national exit polls revealed that about 50 percent of U.S. voters still blamed former Republican President George W. Bush for the country's economic problems rather than Obama." The allegedly brilliant Rove foresaw 279 electoral votes for Romney. Oops! Rove should retire to a Texas ranch, where he can raise and sell actual bull.
By beating these odds, Obama demonstrated that a majority of the U.S. electorate supports democratic socialism. Three bumper stickers on a California automobile recently illustrated this sad truth. They said, "Obama" "Tax the Rich," and "Live Better -- Work Union." Rather than being rejected as un-American, class warfare proved to be a winning formula. Look for Obama and the left to sow further seeds of discord. Let's see how many prosperous people, entrepreneurs and job creators grow sick of being blamed for America's woes. Many will retire. Others will exile themselves to countries where they will be appreciated.
Romney's general-election campaign had its flaws, but it was energetic, issue-based and optimistic. Nonetheless, he was excoriated for remarking that 47 percent of Americans essentially were beyond his reach because they "believe that they are victims" and "that government has a responsibility to care for them." Actually, Romney tried to sell limited government to the 49.5 percent of Americans who pay no income tax. Obama offered them health care, school loans and other free "investments" financed by the 51.5 percent of Americans who pay income taxes.
Tuesday may have tipped this seesaw. Once a largely untaxed majority of Americans vote themselves free benefits funded by a taxed minority, Washington, D.C., will descend into Athens on the Potomac.
Amid the debris, there are a few reasons for free marketers not to stick our heads in our ovens.
Republican Sen.-elect Jeff Flake of Arizona is one of Capitol Hill's most stalwart soldiers for small government, tight budgets and terminating pork-barrel excess. He will serve Arizona and America splendidly. Republican Ted Cruz also is Senate-bound. Texas' former solicitor general is scary smart, well-spoken to a fault and Hispanic. Perhaps he and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., can remind the GOP how to appeal to this large and growing demographic group.
Colorado and Washington legalized marijuana. These states soon may collide with Obama, who is a battering-ram-wielding drug warrior, despite belonging to the Choom Gang, his high school posse of Hawaiian potheads. Perhaps federalism and Obama's abandonment of his weed-laced hypocrisy will merge like smoke rings and end marijuana prohibition.
Voters in Maryland, Maine, Minnesota and Washington embraced gay marriage. Social conservatives cannot complain that unelected judges imposed this policy. Conservatives and libertarians jointly should pry government's nose from something in which it has no bloody business.
A majority of Americans voted for big government. Now, we all must share the bed that they made. Unfortunately, as Reagan once said, "If you get in bed with the government, you'll get more than a good night's sleep."
Deroy Murdock writes a column for Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with Stanford University's Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace.