I remember the excitement of Margaret Thatcher and the Conservative’s party election in 1979. Britain had just elected someone that talked about Friedrich von Hayek.
I remember excitedly following the election returns in 1980 as the Reagan landslide became clear. America too was going to dump the welfare state.
While Thatcher and Reagan did bring some changes to their respective countries, both revolutions essentially fizzled. We had lower tax rates and slightly smaller bureaucracies but the bulk of the welfare state was impressively intact (the resilience of the warfare state was never in doubt).
In 1989, it was hard not be excited as the people took heed of Reagan’s admonition to “tear down this wall.” The end of the cold war meant that the right could concentrate on the home front. The fight with the Russian commies, we were told, was business; the fight with homegrown lefties was personal. Freed from the cold war need to compromise we could get to work on the home front. What we actually got was George Bush Senior; a thousand points of light; the Americans with Disabilities; the Immigration Act of 1990; and despite reading his lips, a tax increase. We also got a war in the Middle East, but were at least spared the “nation building.”
Then, in November of 1994, we awoke to the howls of anguish from our news reporters (NPR seemed particularly shell shocked). It seems that the country had “thrown a temper tantrum” and passed control of congress to the Republicans. Now, at last, real change was possible. What we got was impeachment, a second Clinton term and (perhaps even worse) the Compassionate Conservative George W. Bush.
Now we have the Tea Party. Maybe things will be different this time, or maybe not. Thanks to 24 news the revolution will be televised, I just don’t expect it to make compelling viewing.