As 2013 heads for the exits, it is clear the Obamacare debacle has shattered the rose-colored lenses through which many Americans have viewed President Obama ever since his dramatic address to the 2004 Democratic National Convention. The vaunted Obama charm can no longer obscure the fact that the president mislead the nation by promising people that Obamacare would let them keep the insurance plans and doctors they like and save thousands of dollars on health care costs.
As a result, a growing number of opinion surveys point to the emergence of a new public consensus that Washington spends too much, tries to control too many things that are better left to state and local authorities or to the private sector and, most important, that it's time for a renewal of respect for individual freedom, initiative and responsibility.
This new consensus is seen in the Gallup poll's finding that three-fourths of Americans view Big Government as the most serious threat to the nation's health. Similarly, the latest Rasmussen Report finds strong majorities support “smaller government with fewer services and lower taxes.” In such a context, Republicans should be poised to regain control of both chambers of Congress in the 2014 election and then elect the next president in 2016.
But the biggest obstacles standing in the way of such renewed GOP success are the two camps that dominate the Republican field, the party's Washington establishment and its Tea Party-led grassroots. Each camp had better sober up about what is required to put the nation back on the right course and how either of them could sabotage the effort.
The establishment GOP must recognize their credibility is also in tatters. For too many years, party leaders promised less spending and elimination of wasteful, duplicative and corrupt federal programs. But it was business as usual in Washington when Republican leaders had the power to deliver on their talk. Today, party leaders will cause more electoral disasters if they think merely talking conservative reform will restore them to power.
Similarly, leaders of the Tea Party movement must recognize that there are no magic solutions that will restore American greatness overnight. As the Patriot Post’s Mark Alexander wrote in a recent letter to supporters, “it will, at best, take many election cycles to re-establish the primacy of first principles and the rule of law, and to reset our course toward liberty.”
So, just as the establishment GOP cannot expect to talk its way back into power without producing credible results on federal balance sheets, Tea Party leaders must constantly remind grassroots activists that freedom and prosperity cannot be regained by winning one election or shutting down the government over a one-time demand that a failed liberal program be defunded.
Whenever three-fourths of the public says government is the country’s biggest problem, that majority includes millions of non-ideological independents and moderates who just want to see American optimism and prosperity restored. They are more open to the conservative message now than they have been since 1980. So, don’t screw it up, Republicans.