"Conservatives have supposedly gotten their groove back," Peter Beinart writes about the results of yesterday's state races, "but it's not the same old groove." The candidates who won—or almost won—downplayed social issues and focused on the economy, which Beinart calls the “new culture war." Sure, a “jihad against deficit spending” isn’t a particularly coherent position when spending and stimulus are keeping the country afloat. But “economic fury” brings in votes, and it’s something the entire country can understand.
The shift began with last year's Wall Street crash, when "economic issues swept everything aside, and McCain, who seemed bored by the economic meltdown, and Palin, who seemed bewildered by it, were swept away, too." Hence the new conservative economic activism. Still, most voters are pragmatic, and the move could backfire. If the economy recovers by Election 2012, Beinart writes on the Daily Beast, “the right’s anti-government crusade will likely strike swing voters as irrelevant and obnoxious.”