Tea Party Bashing

The Tea Party Freshman in Congress who forced the hand of the President and Congress to negotiate and pass a debt reduction bill have been taking a beating in the past 48 hours.

Vice President Joe Biden's reported use of the word "terrorist." Oyjrt Democrats used "arsonists," "saboteurs," and "extortionists" – to vent anger at a debt-ceiling deal that, largely because of the tea party, included no new taxes while mandating massive spending cuts.

The media has been just as insulting, but a lot more clever. "Consider what the towel-snapping Tea Party crazies have already accomplished," writes Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd. "They've changed the entire discussion. They've neutralized the White House. They've whipped their leadership into submission. They've taken taxes and revenues off the table. They've withered the stock and bond markets. They've made journalists speak to them as though they're John Calhoun and Alexander Hamilton."

Back to the Democrats in Congress - Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D) of Missouri called the deal a "sugar-coated Satan sandwich," onto which House minority leader Nancy Pelosi piled on, "with a side of Satan fries."

Democrats' anger is understandable: The massive government spending cuts and lack of new revenue sources in the political deal that raises the debt ceiling by $2.4 trillion so the country can meet its fiduciary obligations hints at a shift of power and priorities away from the Democrats philosophy of "good" government growth toward the tea party's goal of scaling back Washington spending and influence.

Shrugging off unfavorable polls and harsh criticism from Biden and other Democrats, the tea party faithful take stock of their influence on Capitol Hill's debt deal and look ahead to the next battle.

But make no mistake, the Tea Party won this battle. This was a foundational shift in the way the US Government does business. The cuts ended a trend of unlimited spending and started a discussion to reverse that trend.

But I can't for the life of me understand the extent of the villification of the Tea Party. The 87 new Tea Party Congressman campaigned on one issue - the debt. When they were sworn in they said they would not arbitrarily raise the debt ceiling and they did exactly what they said they were going to do.

You have to respect that they kept their promise and stuck to their principle, even if you don't like the principle or the outcome.


For some, that foundational shift has deeper, even global, roots.

"What the Left hasn’t grasped – and what Obama has – is that for the foreseeable future no political candidate or party will be able to increase public spending and win reelection," writes Toby Young, a columnist for the conservative British newspaper the Daily Telegraph. "Socialist welfare programmes have become politically toxic. A sea change has taken place within the West’s most developed countries and [the] debt deal is a reflection of that."

But potentially most worrisome for Democrats is evidence that Americans are increasingly concerned about the debt and back efforts to cut federal spending to bring the deficit under control.

Polls have been far from definitive on how Americans feel. A July 15 CBS Poll showed 69 percent of Americans opposed to raising the debt ceiling. But a more recent Pew poll showed that 60 percent of Americans favor a mix of spending cuts and tax increases to bring down the debt, with another 19 percent favoring solely cutting programs and another 8 percent favoring solely raising taxes without spending cuts.

"I think Democrats do have a big problem in that the mood of the country is now so positive about shrinking deficits and cutting federal spending that makes it extraordinarily hard for the standard Democratic message to prevail right now," says Charles Franklin, a polling expert at the University of Wisconsin, in Madison.

But that's not to say the tea party didn't take hits in the polls by using its leverage in the House to push the country to the brink of defaulting on some of its obligations, which could have had dire economic consequences.

Another Pew survey found that 37 percent of respondents now have a less favorable opinion of the 60 tea party-backed members of Congress after the debt-ceiling standoff, the exact same percentage who said the same about Obama. At the same time, Pew says, 42 percent of Americans say they now view Republicans less favorably.

"Among Democrats, many voters already have negative feelings and that may grow among moderate Republicans and unaffiliated voters," pollster Scott Rasmussen told the Guardian newspaper in England.

Polling sentiments, however, don't stand in the way of Mr. Gray's tea party convictions.

"We're not here to overthrow the government, we want to work within the system," he says. "But if the system is beyond repair, who knows what's next?"

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