It is admirable to stick to one’s convictions. It is admirable to feel so strongly about one’s beliefs that you are willing to withstand withering criticism on principle. But when it becomes apparent that you are the only one who holds those beliefs sacred you need to do a little self evaluation. You need to consider that your views might be in the minority. You just might have to compromise your beliefs for the good of the other folks in the room. Such is the state of the Tea Party Caucus.
The 87 freshman members of the Tea Party Caucus have successfully brought the Speaker of the House, the President of the United States, the United States Congress and the United States of America to their knees. They have for all intents and purposes brought the federal government to a halt as the House and Senate try to find a debt ceiling plan that will assuage the Tea Party Caucus.
The Tea Party has been very clear in what they want. They want lower taxes. They want smaller government. They want to eliminate entitlements and slash social programs. As Grover Norquist said they want a government small enough that they can “drown it in a bathtub”. That is their bottom line…and they really don’t care who gets burned by their scorched earth policies…including the full faith and credit of the good old USA.
Many Tea Partiers believe that the debt ceiling should not be raised under any circumstances. They don’t believe default would be catastrophic; in fact they believe it would be good for the country. They believe default would force the country to live within its means. And they have not wavered one iota from those beliefs.
Democrats and Republicans alike have offered several plans to rein in spending and solve the debt ceiling problem. The Bowles- Simpson Plan, The Biden Plan, The President’s plan, the Gang of Six Plan, The Obama/Boehner Plan and The Cut, Cap and Balance Plan; every one rejected by the Tea Party. Even the plan which their elected Speaker personally drew up yesterday was rejected as lacking in sufficient spending cuts. They maintain their beliefs even when pressed by overwhelming opposition.
Every opinion poll shows that a vast majority of US citizens disagree with the Tea Party Caucus. 62% of Americans believe that failure to raise the debt ceiling would bring serious financial consequences. 68% believe that the richest 2% of Americans should pay more taxes. 72% of Americans believe that a debt ceiling deal should include spending cuts AND increases in revenue. It doesn’t matter to the Tea party Caucus. They and they alone know what’s best for America.
Congress will work around the Tea Party and cobble together enough votes to reach an eleventh hour debt ceiling compromise…and the President will sign it. They have no choice. It won’t be a good deal. In fact it will be a bad deal for the country because it won’t begin to solve the nation’s long term financial problems. But it will be a done deal; and a sigh of relief will be heard throughout the nation’s capital.
The fallout from this weak compromise will fall squarely on the shoulders of the President…as it should. We believe whatever happens on a President’s watch…both good and bad… is his to bear. He is the Commander-In-Chief and the leader. Many wish that he had the strength of conviction exhibited by his Tea Party foes. But this is a President who is more about finding common ground than twisting arms. After all, the debt ceiling deadline has been looming for over nine months. So it should come as no surprise that something would have to be done to raise it in time. To be putting millions of Americans at risk while those elected to make tough decisions play Romper Room politics is unconscionable. The lack of leadership in Congress and in the White House has been an embarrassment both here and around the world.
But the Tea Party Caucus can hold its head high. They stuck to their convictions; and in the end their reckless, intransigent behavior brought the country to its knees. Well done.