During the Bush years, when the Republicans controlled Congress, government spending soared, deficits increased, and the federal government grew. In fact, very few remember that the Tea Party movement started as a reaction to TARP—a Bush administration policy. Flash forward two years, and you’ll find dozens of GOP candidates that argue that their own party “lost its way” when it was last in power. As Democrat Steny Hoyer pointed out last April, “hypocrisy is difficult to deal with.”
Based on the GOP’s record, voters still have very little reason to believe that Republicans stand for limited government. To be honest, that’s the Achilles heel of the GOP. By pointing to Bush’s three way expansion of government power—No Child Left Behind (education), Medicare Part D (health care), and the bank bailout (business)—Democrats can make Republicans look like big-government liars.
This would have helped them in November, because the Republicans aren’t going to win confidence by promising to do slowly what the other party would do willingly.
Despite that advantage, Tim Kaine, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, announced the Democratic Party’s campaign strategy today, and it’s not going to work to their advantage. Congressional Democrats plan to link Republicans to the ideologically defined “Tea-Party movement.” By doing that, Democrats gave up their best chance to preserve a majority.
Linking the GOP and the Tea Party implies that the Republicans actually do stand for something. Before that connection, Democrats could have made the case that Republicans stand for nothing except being the “Party of no.”
But now, Democrats have given voters a reason to support the GOP. Connecting the Republicans and the Tea Party is essentially connecting a compelling intellectual movement with a powerful political institution. The Tea Party is going to spark new life into a party that, two years ago, many political commentators were saying was dead.
From Paul Ryan’s “Road Map” to Michele Bachmann’s “Tea Party Caucus,” the Tea Party is helping the GOP leave its big government days behind. Already, we are seeing the GOP moving away from the “middle-of-the-roadism” that led to Bush’s unpopularity. Because of the Tea Party movement, Republicans are making rapid advances to Reagan’s or Coolidge’s party.
It’s a transition that many Americans are going to welcome: goodbye W. and hello Reagan. Limited Government is back in vogue and the Democrats are helping the GOP rebuild its image.
Charles Couger is a writer and freelance journalist from Hillsdale, MI.