Dan Holler

To say Barack Obama's second term agenda is in turmoil is an understatement. His lofty goals include passing a budget and farm bill, two things considered routine in the past. The other major goal laid out last week was immigration reform, in the form of amnesty. That is all but dead, too.

With the “ruling class agenda” stymied, it should come as no surprise top-senator-turned-top-lobbyist Trent Lott is talking about the need to "roll" the tea party and conservatives in Congress. Of course, Lott – the man who flip-flipped on the Law of the Sea Treaty when money dictated – also thought he could co-opt the tea party after the 2010 elections.

He failed then, and he will fail this time too.

What Lott and those of his ilk fail to understand is that the "tea party" is not an easily controlled Washington creation; in fact, the mere insinuation shows how out of touch he and some of his former Senate colleagues are with the very folks who comprise the core of the Republican Party.

When Lott talks about "beating" the tea party, he is talking about silencing grassroots conservatives. He is talking about marginalizing those who walk door-to-door for the party that claims to be America's conservative party. He is talking about alienating the very people Republicans cannot afford to lose.

Writing about a recent Gallup poll, the Wall Street Journal opinion editors explained “the President's approval rating is down, but the GOP's favorability rating has fallen 10 percentage points since September to 28 percent, or the lowest rating for either party since the outfit started asking in 1992. Lower, in other words, than amid the Gingrich shutdown and even the late George W. Bush period of wars abroad and economic crash at home.”

That is a very shallow reading of top line polling data.

Outside the Washington and New York City media bubbles, something else is happening. Additional polling from Gallup finds “more negative opinions of both parties since the shutdown began…and Americans' widespread dissatisfaction with the way the nation is being governed.” If we use “need for a third party” as a marker for dissatisfaction with one’s own political party, Gallup found a sharp increase between 2012 and 2013 in the number of Republicans supporting such an emergence – skyrocketing from 36 percent to 52 percent.

Americans may be turning away from the GOP, but many of those Americans are self-identified Republican voters. If Republican voters don't like the Republican Party, how in the world does the GOP expect to woo new voters?

Breaking down the “6 million white voters opted to sit out” the 2012 election, Sean Trende observed “they fit the profile of ‘Reagan Democrats’ or, more recently, a Ross Perot supporter.”

Over the weekend, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush offered some advice on how to win some of these voters back. “Have a little bit of self-restraint,” Bush offered. “It might actually be a politically better approach to see the massive dysfunction but we don't even hear about that because we've stepped on that message.”

This is a subtle case for incrementalism. The argument here is that the Left slowly advances their agenda, one click at a time. Those of us on the Right, the logic goes, must be equally as patient – one tiny baby step at a time. But voters flocked toward Reagan – and some extent Perot – for exactly the opposite reason. They understand small-government incrementalism wasn’t (and isn’t) a solution for what ails America.

In the era of Obama, there is an undeniable problem with incrementalism: there is no turning back from Obamacare. This law isn't an incremental step; it is a headlong rush toward a single-payer, government-run health care system.

In 1961, Ronald Reagan warned of such a dramatic turn:

“One of the traditional methods of imposing statism or socialism on a people has been by way of medicine. It’s very easy to disguise a medical program as a humanitarian project. Most people are a little reluctant to oppose anything that suggests medical care for people who possibly can’t afford it.”

America’s ruling class knows this, but many would rather not confront it head on; instead, they’d rather confront the conservatives standing in front of the tank yelling stop.


Dan Holler

Dan Holler is the Communications Director for Heritage Action for America. Previously, he held numerous positions at The Heritage Foundation, most recently he was the Senate Relations Deputy. A Maryland native, he is a graduate of Washington College.

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