The tea party revolution: Politicians who keep their promises

Ron Smith says that whether you love or hate the tea party people, they're doing what they were elected to do

August 04, 2011|By Ron Smith

A theme emerged after the nation's debt ceiling was finally lifted: This isn't a good deal, but this is the best deal we could come up with under the circumstances.

Words to that effect came in a torrent from Democrats, Republicans and the media, virtually all of whom were appalled, albeit for different reasons. For House members, it's a handy mantra to haul before voters next year. "It's not my fault we screwed this up. I did everything in my power to cut (GOP) or preserve (Dems) the excessive spending on which we've become so dependent," says whichever candidate is facing voters.

In an editorial titled, "We need an election," this newspaper called the debt limit deal "a terrible bargain born of a dysfunctional Washington," and predictably lamented "excessive spending cuts at a time when economic growth and job creation are practically non-existent, all without actually providing enough deficit reduction to secure our long-term prosperity."

What liberals, excuse me, progressives, seem unable to understand is that we had an election just last year, and it had results. "Terrorists" — that is, tea party people — elected fellow believers to several dozen seats in the House.

According to New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, who has a lot of experience in the part of the world he's referencing, these tea party folks are similar to Hezbollah, and you know what a problem those guys have been over in Lebanon, right?

These "hostage-takers" proceeded to bollix up the smoothly tuned engine of government. They wouldn't play the establishment game — the one that has sent us careening off the cliff and into a financial abyss — and this amazes establishment flunkies no end.

It's a shock to the system when a politician, let alone dozens of them, actually tries to fulfill the promises made to the voters.

President Barack Obama certainly can't be accused of that. If one Googles "Obama broken promises," one will find well more than two dozen of them. Interestingly, both liberals (oops, there I go again) and conservatives will find plenty to gripe about.

For example, candidate Obama promised to close Guantanamo's notorious prison but didn't, and he promised that the American people would have five days to review proposed bills before they were voted upon, but we don't.

Promises are easy to make but difficult to keep, and whether you admire them or view them as tools of the devil, the tea party freshmen have been true to their word. This has driven the political left crazy. What happened to the reliable Republicans who would give the Democrats two things for every one thing they got in return?

Lefty commentators expressed their anger that House Speaker John Boehner couldn't act like Sam Rayburn or Tip O'Neill and whip his troops into line. In the old days, party discipline was paramount.

What many refuse to understand is the unique situation we face, one that politics as usual cannot handle. Though it can be argued that, in the end, establishment Washington won the debt ceiling battle, it's clear that the terms of debate about spending have been changed by the intransigence of the new GOP cohort.

Whether this is for good or bad is a matter of one's political belief system. Dysfunctional government could well be an improvement on the status quo, because "functional" government is what got us to this point.

Former U.S. Comptroller General David Walker estimates we're three years away from being a giant Greece. There is nobody I know of who thinks the current situation, in which we borrow 42 cents of every dollar spent by the government, is in any way sustainable.

And yet, after all the Sturm und Drang on Capitol Hill, nothing of significance has been done to avert the reckoning that lies not far down the road. On that, most everyone seems agreed as well. So now what?

We are in uncharted waters, and as the great Leonard Cohen put it, "Everybody knows the boat is leaking; everybody knows the captain lied." Everybody knows a lot of things, but nobody knows how to get us safely back to shore.

And as far as needing a new election, let's hope there's a miracle worker out there, because a miracle is what we desperately need.

Ron Smith's column appears on Fridays. His email is rsmith@wbal.com.

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