Politics is always an argument about "reality," in the modern sense of the approved point of view. Let's get one thing clear, writes Timothy Dalrymple. The Tea Party isn't brand new, whatever liberals say.
Raise your hand if you’ve heard this before: “If the Tea Party activists were really upset about spending, where were they when Bush was running up the deficits?” The alleged inconsistency -- that conservatives were perfectly content with big government under Bush but are outraged now -- is a key component of the liberal argument that the Tea Party is actually driven by more nefarious motives.
Plenty of conservatives were unhappy with Bush's spending. But nobody gave them no never-mind. But we reality-based chaps are going to have to hammer this out, again and again. Because liberals will do anything rather than admit that the tide had turned and that they must now take a back seat in the political bus.
My version of reality aligns with Dalrymple.
Back in the 1990s under the Gingrich Congress, spending was not cut, but the rate of increase was sharply decreased. The result was a small federal budget surplus in 1998. But then the political tide changed. People started to think: wow, things are getting better. Maybe now it was time to open the spending spigots a little and do the things we couldn't do when the deficit was threatening to eat us alive. So when George W. Bush ran he ran as a "compassionate conservative," and supported big-government initiatives like No Child Left Behind and Medicare drugs. Conservatives hated this, and I hated it too, although I understood that any Republican would have to run like that. The stern budget-balancing politics of the early 1990s had run its course.
When the Democrats ran in 2006 and 2008 they ran as budget balancers. Nancy Pelosi vowed "no new deficit spending" in 2007.
So nobody can really be surprised that a conservative anti-spending movement got started in 2009 the moment that it became clear that the Obama administration was not going to balance the budget but simply open the spigots wide and pump money as fast as possible into the buckets of every liberal interest group in the nation.
Now, of course, we have the mother of all debt problems and the mother of all spending problems and the real problem of an economy that isn't expanding rapidly after the meltdown of 2008. Americans are frightened about big government spending like they have never been frightened in the past and they are right to be afraid.
The question is: what comes next. Do we really do something about spending, which means entitlements, or do we fudge one more time?
That is the point of this election and the election that comes after it.
It is a battle for the hearts and minds of women and minorities. White men have been persuaded about the follies of big government for some time. No surprise there. White men are the people expected to pay for a big government that counts women and minorities as its darlings.
There comes a time in the trajectory of every minority when it ceases to respond to the tune of big government and its patronage. It says I don't need the political machine to protect me from the big bad world any more.
This truth is the great truth of the modern city and the modern economy. The modern world is not a world of robber barons, whatever left-wing writers say. It is a world that has the least amount of robber barons in history. All you need to get along is to pay a little attention in school and get yourself a skill and learn to be trustworthy. Then you will thrive.
All we need to do in the years ahead is to unwind slowly all the entitlements and special privileges created in the century of big government. If we can do that America will thrive. If we don't unwind all those privileges then government will default on its debt and the weak and the poor will go to the wall.