This month three members of Congress have been beaten in their bids for re-election -- a Republican senator from Utah, a Democratic congressman from West Virginia and a Republican-turned-Democrat senator from Pennsylvania. Their records and their curricula vitae are different. But they all have one thing in common: They are members of an Appropriations Committee........Their defeats are an indication that spending is not popular this year. So is the decision, shocking to many Democrats, of House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey to retire after a career of 41 years. Obey maintains that the vigorous campaign of a young Republican in his district didn't prompt his decision. But his retirement is evidence that, suddenly this year, pork is not kosher.
Barone repeats the old maxim that America is conservative ideologically and operationally liberal. The California led revolutions against taxes in the '70s were a sign that the Great Society and Clinton's mumbo-jumbo had gone too far, but George W. Bush continued to spend recklessly while borrowing to keep taxes down. The idea was to have a"guns and butter" economy steaming ahead until.....the 2006 and 2008 elections threw out the Republicans.
The rebellion against the fiscal policies of the Obama Democrats, in contrast, is concentrated on spending. The Tea Party movement began with Rick Santelli's rant in February 2009, long before the scheduled expiration of the Bush tax cuts in January 2011.
What we are seeing is a spontaneous rush of previously inactive citizens into political activity, a movement symbolized but not limited to the Tea Party movement, in response to the vast increases in federal spending that began with the Troubled Asset Relief Program legislation in fall 2008 and accelerated with the Obama Democrats' stimulus package, budget and health care bills.
The Tea Party folk are focusing on something real. Federal spending is rising from about 21 percent to about 25 percent of gross domestic product -- a huge increase in historic terms -- and the national debt is on a trajectory to double as a percentage of GDP within a decade. That is a bigger increase than anything since World War II.
Now the political scientists' maxim seems out of date. The Democrat who won the Pennsylvania 12th Congressional District special election opposed the Democrats' health care law and cap-and-trade bills. The Tea Party-loving Republican who won the Senate nomination in Kentucky jumped out to a big lead. The defeat of the three appropriators, who among them have served 76 years in Congress (and whose fathers served another 42), is the canary that stopped singing in the coal mine.
Barone covered the recent British Conservative takeover and compares the situations in the two oldest democracies:
Unlike the Conservatives, Republicans have no elected party leader. But House Republicans like Eric Cantor, Kevin McCarthy and Peter Roskam are setting up web sites to solicit voters' proposals for spending cuts, while Paul Ryan has set out a long-term road map toward fiscal probity. Worthy first steps. I think voters are demanding a specific plan to roll back Democrats' spending. Republicans need to supply it.
Nothing like a correction in course for the ship of state, which was heading dangerously toward a starboard capsizing after Obama outed himself as a left-wing socialist ideologically. Can the Republicans pick up the pieces of their shattered ideology?