Joseph P. Overton was a genius. His untimely death at age 43 in a light aircraft accident left the Mackinac Center and the whole world a little emptier for the tragedy.
Okay. I'm done with the gushing. The truth is, as much as I've discussed The Overton Window, I've been doing even more thinking about it lately. I've come to the conclusion that every major policy shift in my lifetime, and for quite some time beyond, can be attributed to either a movement of the window, or a misunderstanding of what the window means. To that end, I would like to share with you readers a few truisms that will hopefully enlighten you and stimulate some critical thought.
Democrats attempt to move the window towards less freedom.
I never really understood Glenn Beck's distaste for Woodrow Wilson until I understood what Wilson had in common with virtually every other 20th century "progressive liberal." It is this simple fact that makes the modern democratic party so dangerous, and it also explains Rahm Emanuel's "never let a crisis go to waste" mentality. The gulf oil spill represents an important watershed moment for all of America, since our response to Obama's responses will have a lasting cultural impact that will live for decades beyond even a two-term Obama presidency.
Republicans don't want to move the window towards less freedom, but they are ill-equipped to stop it and ignorant of how to get it to move the other way.
Those few conservative-sounding and successful Republicans today understand this truism, though virtually all of the Republican establishment is in gross denial of it. The relationship between cultural acceptance and policy is something that Ronald Reagan was keenly aware of; unfortunately, his attitude towards the greater masses of people seems now like an anomaly in 20th century Republican politics. While I don't believe that the Republican party is irreversibly corrupt, I do believe that it's badly broken, and this conveniently explains why.
In the last fifteen years, both parties have not been equally guilty of corruption, but they have been equally blind to the realities of the Overton Window.
Democrats could take better advice from me than what they get from paid political advisers. There is truly nothing new under the sun, and the Democrats are actually making the same mistake the Republicans made in 1994: they assume that their electoral victory meant that the window moved in their favored direction. For the Republicans, it was toward the "more freedom" side. For the Democrats, it was toward the "more government" side. Regrettably for the future of our republic, both parties were equally wrong.
In the congressional campaign of 2010, our goal as freedom-loving conservatives should move beyond the election of like-minded individuals. If those individuals of like-mind ascend to the halls of Congress to find that the Overton Window is outside their own comfort zones, they will vote the policy in the window every single time. This is not a problem of poor ethics or corruption (although it can certainly lead there), but rather a problem of perception -- ours as well as the politicians'. First we kick out the bums who seem hellbent on ignoring the window altogether, then we work on changing cultural norms. Only then will our republic be on the right track, away from serfdom and tyranny.