Later, when the conditions were right for attack, General Washington attacked. But he would have had nothing to attack with if he had wasted his troops in battles that would have wiped them out.
Similar principles apply in politics. As Edmund Burke said, more than two centuries ago: "Preserving my principles unshaken, I reserve my activity for rational endeavors."
What does "rational" mean? At its most basic, it means an ability to make a ratio, as with "rational numbers" in mathematics. More broadly, it means an ability to weigh one thing against another.
There are a lot of things to weigh against each other, not only as regards the economy, but also what the consequences to this nation would be to have Barack Obama get re-elected and go further down the dangerous path he has put us on, at home and abroad. Is it worth that risk to make a futile symbolic vote in Congress?
One of the good things about the Tea Party movement is that it resisted the temptation to actually form a third political party, which has been an exercise in futility, time and time again, under the American electoral system.
But, if the Tea Party movement within the Republican Party becomes just a rule-or-ruin minority, then they might just as well have formed a separate third party and gone on to oblivion.
Writers can advocate things that have no chance at the moment, for their very writing about those things persuasively can make them possible at some future date. But to adopt the same approach as an elected member of Congress risks losing both the present and the future.