(Washington Times, Aug. 12) Perhaps the most telling remark during the whole of the debt–ceiling negotiations came on Aug. 7 from White House consultant David Axelrod. Appearing on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Axelrod echoed a growing chant from the left wing: The Standard and Poor’s downgrade of America’s credit rating was “essentially the Tea Party downgrade,” he charged—adding that the “Tea Party brought us to the brink of default.”
What a shameful abdication of responsibility from an office which once was, as an earlier occupant said, where the buck stopped. Apparently not any more. Barack Obama, you’re no Harry Truman. This administration’s passing of the buck is even more brazen when you remember that never has the White House offered a debt–ceiling plan of its own.
Who did? Well, the Tea Party members in Congress for starters passed “Cut, Cap and Balance” well before the debt–ceiling deadline. Even Senate Democrats, led by Majority Leader Harry Reid, put forth a plan. Since the Supreme Court isn’t a legislative body, that leaves the Obama Administration as the only branch of government which failed to lead.
Still, if you listen to no one but the media, you’d think that the Tea Party had done something malicious by forcing Congress and the White House to agree to serious spending cuts—exactly what S&P had demanded. The talking heads on the left—and even some Democrats in Congress—unleashed a flurry of criticism, calling the Tea Party “terrorists,” “hostage takers,” and akin to one “holding a gun to the head” of the American people.
Most Americans see what the Tea Party did as something else: Taking responsibility. At least someone has to.
Which brings us back to President Obama’s—via David Axelrod—disclaimer of responsibility. While in no way is this the “Tea Party downgrade,” those aroused millions of working Americans known as Tea Party have shown themselves more than ready to assume the responsibility that no one in Washington appears brave enough to take on. On our mountain trails here in the Rockies, they’ll tell you to lead, follow, or get out of the way. It’s time to get out of the way, Mr. President.
That sentiment was strong when we convened a thousand delegates from 25 states at Western Conservative Summit 2011 in Denver last month. It was not a partisan gathering, but there were many activists from the Tea Party, 9.12 chapters, and taxpayer groups. They expressed disgust with the administration’s fiscal indiscipline and economic ineptitude, mixed with impatience for constitutional restraints on taxes and spending at the federal level similar to those that have served Colorado so well.
As a force for renewal of our nation’s founding principles, the Tea Party is the most potent reassertion of individual citizen responsibility since the grassroots conservative movement of the 1970s propelled Ronald Reagan to victory over Jimmy Carter. The parallels between the two eras are clear: Then as now, the Washington elite were flummoxed on the economy. Some even explained America’s seemingly insurmountable problems as the natural result of a nation in decline. Criticism of the president was dismissed as a juvenile reaction to the only “adults in the room.”
Because congressmen attentive to the Tea Party are only one element of one house of one branch of government, today’s heirs to the Reagan legacy can only do so much. But look at what they’ve already done. 2011 began with the president sending a bloated budget to Congress which added to the nation’s deficit. The presence of the Tea Party ensured that the irresponsible Obama budget was dead on arrival. After the debt–ceiling debate, the Tea Party has now shifted the dialogue in Washington away from job–killing tax increases to serious, long–term budget cuts that reduce the nation’s $14 trillion debt. In a city that considers budget cuts as akin to Armageddon and higher taxes as the Holy Grail, the Tea Party’s success is no small feat.
The fiscal deficit is a grave concern. But the worst pathology threatening the USA with terminal decline is the responsibility deficit, a “not me” denial syndrome which infects too much of American society right now. And nowhere is this deficit more on display than in the current White House occupant. We can only hope that 2012 will bring us a candidate who, like Reagan, wants to lead with more than just words. Until then, the bottom–up responsibility movement famously or infamously called the Tea Party is America’s best hope.