In this piece that also quotes our good friend Craig Shirley to nice effect, Matt Kibbe of Freedom Works and Amy Kremer of the Tea Party Express both make an absolutely crucial point — one which is now becoming accepted wisdom even though just two years ago all the cognoscenti scoffed at it. The wisdom is that limitations on government actually are popular. To quote the article:
To put up the best fight possible, though, Kibbe says he would advise O’Donnell “to focus on the fiscal issues of constitutionally limited government and stopping Congress from spending money it doesn’t have.”
Kremer says this tactic, familiar in this election cycle, could be enough to propel O’Donnell and her fellow Tea Partiers to Capitol Hill.
“When most people go to the polls this year, they’re voting on the economy,” Kremer said. “This whole movement was born out of the excessive taxation, the out-of-control spending, the government intrusion. And people are fed up with it.
“It’s the fiscal issues that are the glue binding this Tea Party together.”
They are so right. And it is a point I have been making for years, often getting laughed at. But here, when things looked bleakest for conservatives back in December of 2008 and then-President-elect Obama riding a wave of hope and change, I wrote at this site that “abundant political history” shows that “advocacy of limited government is a political winner.” I noted that “moderates” and “independents” — what some called “the radical middle” — actually are driven by fiscal issues more than just about anything else. It amazed me then that people forgot the lesson from Ross Perot’s huge popularity (until he flaked out) was that the American public hates out-of-control federal spending and federal debt. Jesse Ventura, of all unlikely people, rode much the same message to the governorship of Minnesota.
I then wrote this:
When Republicans act like fiscal conservatives, they have won, again and again. When they have spent like inebriated mariners, they have lost — again and again.
The obvious conclusion, from more than a quarter-century of modern American history, is that limiting government is either a strong net plus, politically, or at least not in any way a drag on electoral fortunes; profligacy, on the contrary, is either a strong net minus, politically, or at least not in any way an electoral benefit.
The evidence for the contrary conclusion — that voters reward big government — is utterly, completely nonexistent.
The week earlier, I had insisted that conservative principles across the board are winners:
Winning without the principles is an oxymoron. It’s like congratulating an Auburn fan in the name of Bear Bryant. Without the principles, we haven’t won. It’s that simple….
All of this supposedly wise tactical advice to the effect that we should abandon, or significantly play down, any of the main principles that animate us is neither wise nor tactically clever, nor even realistic. It assumes that conservatives could be successful acting as if we’re something that we’re not. But in the long run, inauthenticity never works. Integrity is more powerful.
American Enterprise Institute President Arthur Brooks agrees. This is a man who insists on data-driven analysis. Here is what Brooks has to say on the matter: “The data say that when people sell out their principles, they lose power.” And the best way to win is to “make the moral case for what you believe.”
This is what the Tea Party movement “is all about,” as Bob Dole would say (except that with Dole, “what it’s all about” was just a verbal tic). It is why the movement has been successful. It is why I and so many others have thrilled to its existence and celebrated almost all of its victories. (Even if every once in a while, as in Delaware, wondering if they had chosen the right time, place and vehicle. And even in Delaware, one can be thrilled at the demonstration of raw and productive political energy and hope it bears surprisingly good fruit in the fall.)
This is a lesson Republican politicians need to learn or re-learn. Of course, not all principles are worthwhile: Communist principles and Nazi principles, for instance, are anathema in this country and Americans are too good to adopt them. But conservative principles are specifically principles rooted in the American tradition and the American experience, and they stem from the laws of nature and of nature’s God, which means they are right and good and just.
Right, good, just… and winning as well.