by Senator Jim DeMint
Politicians who fail to recognize it are certain to become relics of the past.
THE 2012 REPUBLICAN PRIMARIES are showing early signs of another banner year for the Tea Party. The candidacies of Republican insurgents such as Richard Mourdock, Josh Mandel, Deb Fischer, Ted Cruz, and Mark Neumann follow the spirit of Senators Marco Rubio, Mike Lee, Pat Toomey, and Rand Paul—who each defeated establishment forces in their 2010 senatorial races. Meanwhile, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who enacted ambitious reforms of public-sector unions in his state, trounced his recall opponent by a seven-point margin.
In just a few short years, the Tea Party has evolved from small, disparate groups scattered all around the country into a full-fledged movement with considerable influence. Tea Party candidates are no passing fad; they are trailblazers of a new, lasting political reality.
For too long, politicians got away with proclaiming the value of fiscal responsibility on the campaign trail without ever acting on it once they were in Washington. But thanks to the Internet, that’s no longer an option. Activists around the country have ready access to politicians’ voting records, speeches, and statements with just a few clicks of a mouse. It’s nearly impossible to mislead voters these days. That’s why it’s no longer acceptable for candidates to simply mouth conservative rhetoric. Their records must back it up. For that reason, many longtime incumbents, whose walk didn’t match their talk, had to go. They couldn’t pass muster in an age of transparency.
The pundit class often laments the lack of bipartisanship in Washington and wistfully recalls the good old days when Republicans and Democrats would work together to bring home the bacon and plunge our nation deeper into debt. Times have changed. Jay Cost made an astute observation in his essay “The Politics of Loss” in National Affairs. He said that the stunning economic growth in the postwar era “liberated policy makers from having to make any hard choices. The people could have guns, butter, and low taxes—all thanks to a private economy that seemed to grow regardless of what government did.”
Today, however, the private economy is pinned under the jackboot of big government. There’s no more room for compromise. When Republicans and Democrats worked together in the past, the result was almost always a bigger, more expensive government. As a result, government now controls our health care, our energy, our education, our transportation, our mortgages, our banks, and countless other things. The debt is now bigger than our gross domestic product.
It’s time for toughness. Merely raising the subject of eliminating a single government program provokes ridicule and anger from any number of constituencies. Those who speak frankly and honestly about the decisions that must be made to save our entitlement programs can expect to be labeled in the crudest terms by the Democrat Party and its assorted special-interest groups.