The key mistake Democrats made [after Jimmy Carter won the White House] in 1976 was failing to realize what brought them to power. Democrats won because of public dissatisfaction with the previous regime, which had overseen the economic crisis, and also because of a wider fear that America would have to live with diminished expectations. But although they won on largely economic grounds, Democrats acted as if they had a sweeping mandate for cultural transformation -- for social libertarianism, affirmative action and egalitarianism, dovish internationalism, and idealistic notions of human rights. These ideas dominated a radical Congress and were enthusiastically adopted by the cohort of Carter appointments to the judiciary. They all ignored a basic principle: just because people are unhappy where they are does not mean they are willing to go anywhere you try to lead them.
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