This election may bring more change than many expect.

Daniel Henninger explains in today’s Wall Street Journal that it may also be more historical than many realize:

“Push past the historic candidacy, however, and one sees something even larger at stake in this vote. One sees what Joe (The Plumber) Wurzelbacher saw. The real ‘change’ being put to a vote for the American people in 2008 is not simply a break from the economic policies of ‘the past eight years’ but with the American economic philosophy of the past 200 years. This election is about a long-term change in America’s idea of itself.

“I don’t agree with the argument that an Obama-Pelosi-Reid government is a one-off, that good old nonideological American pragmatism will temper their ambitions. Not true. With this election, the U.S. is at a philosophical tipping point.

“The goal of Sen. Obama and the modern, ‘progressive’ Democratic Party is to move the U.S. in the direction of Western Europe, the so-called German model and its ’social market economy.’ Under this notion, business is highly regulated, as it would be in the next Congress under Democratic House committee chairmen Markey, Frank and Waxman. Business is allowed to create ‘wealth’ so long as its utility is not primarily to create new jobs or economic growth but to support a deep welfare system.

“The political planets are aligned to make this achievable. In the aftermath of the financial crisis, prominent Democrats, European leaders in France and Germany and more U.S. newspaper articles than one can count have said that the crisis proves the need to permanently tame the American “free-market” model. P.O.W. Alan Greenspan is broadcasting confessions. The question is: Are the American people of a mind to throw in the towel on the system that got them here?”

James Pethokoukis, financial columnist for U.S. News & World Report, says that under a President Obama the US will move “from an Ownership Society to a Government Owns It Society that would perhaps nudge America back to the left.” Capital gains taxes will be raised (even though this won’t bring in additional revenue), and 401-K and IRA retirement plans could be eliminated. Suicidal, you say? Not necessarily so. Pethokoukis notes:

“All this makes smart political sense for Democrats. See, since the mid-1960s, stock ownership in the United States has risen from 10 percent of households to around 50 percent. And that growing Investor Class, a term coined and popularized by CNBC commentator and host Lawrence Kudlow, has helped nudge America evermore to the right. It sure helped George W. Bush get elected twice to the White House, voting for him by wide margins against John Kerry in 2004 and Al Gore in 2000. And it was those results that have helped ensure Democrats will fight to the death to prevent Social Security from being reimagined into a system of personal and high-return investment accounts. Privatization? Given its potential effect on voting patterns, Uncle Sam might as well send every American household a copy of Milton Friedman’s Free to Choose on DVD.”