Our panel of experts reports on the first national elections of the Tea Party era.
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The Republican majority that reigned from 1995 to 2007 not only did little to limit the size and scope of government, but also actively expanded the federal role in education and passed the largest expansion of entitlements since the Great Society. The lawmakers themselves may deserve the most blame, but conservatives, too, should take a share of the responsibility for allowing them to get away with it. Had the Tea Party movement existed back then, could it have stopped the Bush-era GOP from passing legislation such as the Medicare prescription drug bill and No Child Left Behind? Could it have arm-twisted Republicans into enacting serious entitlement reform or drastically reworking the federal tax code?
One of the signs that the Tea Party movement represents a clear shift is to look at how successful it’s been at fighting the party establishment. During the Bush era, conservatives were taken for granted as the party bosses pushed preferred candidates such as Arlen Specter and Lincoln Chaffee. Yet in this past election cycle, Tea Partiers helped drive Specter and Charlie Crist out of the party, electing Sens. Pat Toomey and Marco Rubio in the process. While Christine O’Donnell came up far short in Delaware, activists proved that they were willing to sacrifice a Senate seat to take a stand against liberal Republicans.
Political movements tend to form when one ideological group finds itself out of power and is desperate to make a change. That’s how Barack Obama became president with overwhelming Democratic majorities in both chambers of Congress. The true test for Tea Partiers will be whether they can sustain their energy and force Republicans to actually govern as conservatives, starting with the next Congress, but even more so should they amass more power in 2012.
Philip Klein is The American Spectator’s Washington correspondent.
The results are in. More than 60 House seats, a half-dozen Senate seats, at least 10 new governorships as this goes to print. That’s before you get to the hundreds of new state legislators.
And yet — after a solid two years of the outrage, rebellion, and Tea Parties that produced all of this — the call goes up in some GOP quarters for “tweaking” ObamaCare. Not repeal — tweaking.
The way the strategy would unfold?
First, the newly Republican House would pass a repeal bill. Senate Republicans would try to do the same. Maybe they could manage the 60 votes — maybe not. If they did accomplish this, with House and Senate on board the bill would be sent to the president, where a veto would happen in the blink of an eye.
What happens next is surely going to be the core of the GOP debate over the next two years — and play a critical role in the race for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.
Will the party leadership — specifically Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and new Speaker John Boehner — move to tweak? Or, as many conservatives are urging, keep sending the bill back for veto? Thus defining precisely the looming debate that has such momentous consequences for both the country and the GOP itself.
To tweak — which the dictionary defines as “to make a minor adjustment to” is to find an area of agreement with President Obama on repeal of specific sections of the health care law — and make that “minor adjustment.” This in turn is seen by many conservatives as acquiescence in Obama’s massive expansion of an already out-of-control federal government. Or, if you will, a betrayal not simply of conservative principle but all of the activists and voters who flooded voting booths to demand that ObamaCare be repealed outright. It is a signal flare that the GOP Establishment, the ruling class — which has consistently produced losing presidential nominees or needlessly close winners — is in effect taking Obama’s side in the debate. We tried to repeal it, they will say, with a shrug of the shoulders. But the votes weren’t there.
Which means: ObamaCare — and Obama himself — wins.
Is this really what this election was all about? Giving a half-hearted stab at repeal — and then just rolling over as ObamaCare’s grip on the American health care system tightens? Permanently?
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
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