Ken Connor

In the wake of Congress's 11th hour vote to raise the debt limit through the fall of 2012, the Tea Party is once again the center of attention for Beltway insiders and media pundits. Still reeling from the losses suffered in the 2010 midterms – and dismayed by the outcome of the debt-ceiling debate – Liberals are outraged that a minority movement within the Republican Party was able to wield such dramatic influence. So are some of the special interests that stand to lose if Washington mends its profligate spending ways.

Of course the "Tea Baggers", as they are disdainfully called by the effete snobs that inhabit the Beltway, contributed nothing to the spending patterns that got us in this fix, but that's irrelevant. They had the audacity to point out that the emperor had no clothes.

How could it happen? How could such a small contingent of no-name, know-nothing nobodies derail the well-oiled machine that is the Washington, D.C. establishment? And what's in it for them? Why would they bring the government to its financial knees? Why would they jeopardize our credit-worthiness and compromise our ability to meet our financial obligations?

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The answer, while simple, is something utterly foreign to the professional politicians who represent us on Capitol Hill. The answer is principle.??

The Tea Party-backed members of Congress got themselves elected in much the same way that most Republicans do: They pledged to cut spending and reduce the size of government. What set these candidates apart, however, was how they acted once they arrived in Washington. Instead of immediately abandoning their campaign promises in favor of feathering their political nests, these men and women took seriously their mandate from the folks back home. They stuck to their guns and exerted every ounce of political influence they could muster for the cause of halting America's runaway debt train.??

For their efforts, they've been panned as a "destructive posse of misguided patriots" and compared to the "radicals" and "nihilists" of the anti-establishment, anti-war Vietnam Era. This vitriolic response (seen on both sides of the aisle) reveals how warped politics has become in our nation's capital, a place where compromise is king and special interests drive the agenda. If you stand on principle and actually live by your campaign promises, you are deemed a "radical." If you walk the talk, you are viewed as a two headed monster, a bullheaded ignoramus "drunk on the bromides of Small Government, Big Business, and the virtues of a balanced budget." That the "brinkmanship" cited by S&P as a reason for downgrading America's credit rating is being interpreted as a reference to Tea Party "extremism" (and not a condemnation of the entrenched fiscal irresponsibility that created the debt-ceiling crisis in the first place) is evidence of how malignant this mindset has become.??

So much for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. ?One can only imagine how different America would be if politicians in Washington rediscovered the virtues of integrity, honesty, forthrightness, and reclaimed a sense of stewardship in their handling of the people's business. There would probably be a lot more productivity and a lot less drama if our representatives would simply say what they mean and mean what they say. As it stands now, the only sentiments engendered by our government's duplicity and hypocritical conduct are cynicism and disgust. ??Enough with the double speak of the Washington Establishment! Americans want representatives who will stand on principle and live up to their promises. And they want representatives who will live within the taxpayers' means.

If this means the Tea Partiers are "radicals", then may their tribe increase.


Ken Connor

Ken Connor is Chairman of the Center for a Just Society in Washington, DC.