The Tea Party is on a winning streak

John Andrews Contributor
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Terrorists, are we? How banal the left’s invective has become. Fiscal responsibility is no doubt a terrifying prospect to the irresponsible spenders and entitlement addicts. But really: In their horror of sobering up, can’t Vice President Joe Biden, Congressman Mike Doyle and The New York Times’s Joe Nocera do better than equate Tea Party patriots with suicide bombers?

I’ve seen this bad movie before. Twenty years ago, after beating me in a Colorado gubernatorial race in which I had advocated constitutional tax and spending limits (narrowly rejected on the 1990 ballot), Democrat Roy Romer called my fellow Republican, Douglas Bruce, a terrorist for bringing up the limitation amendment again in 1992.

The scare tactic failed, and Colorado voters approved our Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, which has served the state well as both a fiscal guardrail and an economic accelerator ever since. The competitive advantage it gives us over other states has been worth billions in jobs gained, incomes boosted, taxes unlevied and debts unincurred.

Now it is the country as a whole that must either assert global competitiveness or slouch into the sunset. The president’s hatchet man — the tough-talking defender of a bankrupt status quo — hysterically denigrates those who urge us to save ourselves. But Biden’s slur against the citizens’ responsibility movement of today will hurt his cause, and embolden ours, just as Romer’s rhetoric stiffened the backbone of fed-up Coloradans in the ’90s.

Biden’s frothing and flailing bespeak the desperation of the defeated. While last week’s deal on the debt ceiling is no great triumph for the forces of austerity, the Democrats’ fond hopes of revenue enhancement have been dashed. Obama’s bluff was called and found false. The irresponsibility binge, if far from over, is on warning for detox.

Margaret Thatcher laughed off this kind of thing. She regarded Biden-style invective from opponents as a sure sign that her side was winning. Take heart, said the Iron Lady: When the other guy turns to venom, it means he’s run out of facts and logic. So it seems we’ve got them right where we want them.

Nor are Democrats the only ones sputtering farcically at the scary sight of Middle America up on its hind legs in anger over Washington’s red ink. Sen. John McCain spoke for many Beltway Republicans when he anathematized the anti-tax forces as “hobbits.” Goodness, what a slap. Clearly there would have been no White House honors to Tolkien, if alive, from McCain, if elected.

Panicky comparisons of the aroused grassroots to Frodo the Ringbearer or Carlos the Jackal by a frightened establishment are one more indicator of the truly historic upheaval we’re witnessing.America has never seen anything like this before, and the fiscal zombies of Capitol Hill have no idea what to make of it.

Less than 100 days after McCain limply conceded to the triumphant Obama, a new political voice had begun roaring its demands for an end to Washington business as usual by both men’s parties. The Tea Party — not just another caucus of partisans but a banner for the people’s insistent purpose, as in “search party” or “farewell party” — has been on a three-year winning streak since then.

In 2009 they hit the town-hall circuit, raising the alarm against Obamacare and puncturing the president’s messianic pretensions. Then in 2010 they fired Speaker Pelosi and elected a Republican House. Now in 2011 they have stood as a stern conscience forcing Boehner’s GOP to keep its word and begin steering the country off the course to fiscal suicide. Quite a run so far, and 2012 is still ahead.

The tendency of great nations to spend themselves to death after about 250 years, and America’s need for a responsibility movement to save ourselves — morally as well as fiscally — was concerning some of us long before Republicans lost the White House.

In Colorado, we’ve been talking about Element R — a nonpartisan third force of citizens who would vow, “Responsibility begins with me” — since 2007. From this has come my new book about what America the Responsible once was and could be again — must be again, if we want the United States to see 2076.

When the Western Conservative Summit, which I chaired, convened in Denver in late July with 1,000 delegates from 25 states, there was a lot of focus on personal responsibility as the USA’s only guarantor of freedom and only safeguard of success. Tea Party spirit was strong, as evidenced when Herman Cain won big in the straw poll over Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann and 10 other 2012 contenders.

Cain’s rousingly delivered, pro-principle, pro-reform, anti-Washington message punctuated the weekend like a thunderclap. But there weren’t any threats of jihad from him or any of the other speakers, nor did the summiteers talk of dynamiting anything but the dependency ethic. Not a hostage-taker or a terrorist in the bunch. Joe Biden would have been so let down.

John Andrews is a former president of the Colorado Senate, director of the Centennial Institute at Colorado Christian University, and the author of “Responsibility Reborn: A Citizen’s Guide to the Next American Century” (Denali Press, 2011). He can be reached at andrewsjk@aol.com.