The hangover from the first year of Obama and the afterglow of Scott Brown’s stunning senatorial upset can teach the major parties some real lessons: First and foremost, listen to the voters, especially voters who are calling for smaller government despite very tough times. In a recent ABC News/Washington Post survey, 58 percent say they favor smaller government that provides fewer services rather than bigger government and more services (38 percent want that). Moving in that direction would indeed constitute change. For a change.

The way back to voters’ hearts is not through boosting the size and scope of government (something else that Obama and the Dems simply filched from the Bush-era GOP) but by unmistakably trimming some sails. Health care reform, such as it is, should consist of giving individuals more options via a deregulated, non-job-based marketplace where costs are made more transparent rather than less so. It works everywhere else in the economy and will work in health care. Regarding government spending, it means freezes all around and reductions in staff sizes at all levels of government. It means starting (and winning) a debate over ridiculous public-sector retirement packages that bankrupt whole polities for the benefit of a privileged few. With foreign policy, it means thinking through a coherent set of principles that will guide our interactions, and not just our reactions, in the world, focusing on trade rather than aid and warfare. It means fighting terrorism with amply-funded intelligence services rather than the misbegotten occupation of whole troubled regions.