Thomas Jefferson (Briefly) Stops Spinning In His Grave

“When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.” — Thomas Jefferson

The Republican Congressional leadership is afraid. And that is good.

Something has got into the Republican leadership, and that something is: fear. Wonderful, salubrious fear. For this we can thank the Tea Party movement, for several reasons. The first is that, while our European cousins are out rioting in the street for more and more government spending, the one significant, genuinely popular movement afoot in American politics is demanding the opposite….

I was a newspaper editor for years, and I’ve had at least a dozen politicians tell me: “We don’t really give a damn what you write about us in the editorials. We don’t even really read them. But if we start seeing letters to the editor, we notice. Any time one constituent is ticked-off enough to take the time to write a letter, that’s significant. One guy writing a letter means that there are 500 more who agree but don’t take the time to write.” One guy writing a letter represents a few hundred people in the mind of Joe Congressman. Those Tea Party rallies, too, loom a lot larger than the raw numbers would suggest, impressive as those raw numbers have been. Joe Congressman does not want to see that crowd camped out on his doorstep.

The second reason used to dabble in witchcraft. Say what you like about Christine O’Donnell and her incompetent nut-cluster of a campaign, she showed the Republican establishment that the Tea Party, and the fiscally discontent at large, are willing to run a kamikaze candidate against any RINO target of opportunity. And not all of the challengers are going to be O’Donnell-type buffoons….

The third fear factor is: reality. In Washington and in statehouses around the country, the reality of the pending Fiscal Armageddon is starting to seep into the thick skulls of the elected class. Jerry Brown pronounced himself “shocked” once he got a good peek at California’s balance sheet. Off the record, politicians of both parties are starting to concede that a lot of the old ideological disputes at now moot, because there simply isn’t any money. It’s not a question of whether there are going to be deep cuts and fundamental restructuring, but when and how much.

It’s worth noting that, as recently as a few weeks ago, plenty of Congressional Republicans were still sticking earmark requests into the Omnibus spending bill thinking they could get away with it. Perhaps now they realize that the grassroots wasn’t going to be placated merely by getting more of them in office.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Politics 101, Quick Takes
Dodd Harris
About Dodd Harris
Dodd, who used to run a blog named ipse dixit, is an attorney, a veteran of the United States Navy, and a fairly good poker player. He contributed over 650 pieces to OTB between May 2007 and September 2013. Follow him on Twitter @Amuk3.

Comments

  1. Alex Knapp says:

    Well, nothing makes for good government like politicians being afraid of a loud, ideologically incoherent minority….

  2. Oh, so that’s what we are. Thanks Alex.

  3. An Interested Party says:

    So…it was “fear” that caused the GOP to negotiate the tax deal compromise with the president, eh? I’m sure the Tea Party crowd can hardly wait to see what “fear” causes the GOP to do next…

  4. Alex Knapp says:

    @Charles – I live right on the Missouri border, and in Missouri, the current Tea Party cause du jour is overturning the anti-puppy mill legislation. Why the freedom to abuse puppies is important to them is anybody’s guess. But every GOP, Tea Party-supported running politician running last fall was running on a platform of how awful it was that the Democrats cut Medicare spending.

    So yeah, ideologically incoherent.

  5. wr says:

    Freedom to abuse puppies is important to them because some hack like Dick Armey was paid a lot of money to tell them it’s important, and they believe anything a corporate lobbyist tells them — as long as he claims “it’s in the constitution.”

  6. sam says:

    But, Dodd, Hamilton will win, you know, he always has.

  7. Patrick T. McGuire says:

    ” I live right on the Missouri border, and in Missouri, the current Tea Party cause du jour is overturning the anti-puppy mill legislation. Why the freedom to abuse puppies is important to them is anybody’s guess.”

    Actually, it doesn’t take any guess as the Missouri Tea Party has made their position quite clear if you take the time to look into it. If you don’t know how to do this, try Google, it’s an excellent resource for getting educated.

    So, instead of sniping from the sidelinees on topics of which you apparently know very little, why not become better informed before making misleading statements?

  8. anjin-san says:

    > Actually, it doesn’t take any guess as the Missouri Tea Party has made their position quite clear if you take the time to look into it.

    True. A little bit of research shows that tea party types have a paranoic fantasy about a sinister plot to drive the price of dogs beyond the means of middle class families.

  9. Trumwill says:

    A little bit of research shows that tea party types have a paranoic fantasy about a sinister plot to drive the price of dogs beyond the means of middle class families.

    Which would be a real tragedy, given the extraordinarily waiting list at local animal shelters for pets. We face such a shortage…