Christine O'Donnell and the Tea Party Era

Christine O'Donnell is a game-changer in the first regularly scheduled federal elections of the Tea Party era in more ways than one.

The evidence? Read the reactions of three people from various parts of the political-media establishment: Peggy Noonan ("Why It's Time for the Tea Party"), Chris Matthews ("Chris Matthews Bets Lib Guest Christine O'Donnell Wins in November") and A.B. Stoddard of The Hill ("Tea Party's Already Won").

"Experts" said Ms. O'Donnell couldn't win in the Delaware Republican primary, and many now say she can't win the general election. They have hoped that about all the Tea Party era candidates, but the vicious attacks on O'Donnell -- especially those coming from establishment Republicans -- demonstrate that the "smartest people in the room" have failed to grasp what the Tea Party knows is at stake.

The O'Donnell win is like my favorite line from the movie The Fugitive. U.S. Marshall Tommy Lee Jones has fugitive Harrison Ford cornered. Ford says, "I didn't kill my wife." Jones replies, "I don't care."

His job wasn't to sort that out on the spot. His job was to bring in the fugitive. Sometimes justice gets sorted out later.

The Tea Party has an urgent mission. Justice will be sorted out. Noonan, Matthews, and Stoddard are at least beginning to grasp what is happening. Others -- professional political consultants, the political media, the political class, indeed, all who have a vested interest in big government -- are in denial.

Karl Rove defended his self-ruinous election eve attack of O'Donnell on Fox News' Hannity show by claiming he's not a cheerleader for every Republican candidate.

Funny, prior to Tuesday night, that's exactly what he was. He was also the cheerleader for policies that ended the Republican congressional majority and is as responsible as anyone for bringing about that "Hope and Change" thing. If he was the "Architect," the people rejected his blueprint.

The media's foremost elitist "common man," Bill O'Reilly, defended his friend and Fox News colleague Rove: he opened his show Thursday by reiterating Rove's "concerns" that O'Donnell isn't what they think the ideal candidate should be.

O'Reilly was more genteel and tepid in his description of O'Donnell's opponent in the general election, a once-self-described Marxist, referring to him as perhaps a "socialist." O'Reilly said the Delaware general election pits extreme ideology against extreme ideology.

Bill, let me break it to you. One ideology is against freedom and is a proven failure.

In this first federal election of the Tea Party era, we won't get all George Washingtons and Thomas Jeffersons. We'll take a few Patrick Henrys, Nathan Hales, James Otises, and others whose names won't make the history books. The Washingtons and Jeffersons may come. This is America. We always rise to the challenge. But we ain't waiting.

The O'Donnell win is the people telling the establishment, "'We don't care.' You are failed stewards of freedom and our great national treasure, and you have messed up things so badly that you need to be replaced -- now -- before it's too late."

Now, in every election, there are disappointments on all sides. However, any losses by Tea Party-backed candidates, but especially by O'Donnell, will come with highly charged "I-told-you-so" moments.

On the other hand, wins by all Tea Party candidates -- and especially O'Donnell -- would come with hand-wringing, excuses, and a litany of "professional" reasons designed only to further the false narrative about the Tea Party.

Fox News has been a great addition to the national news media, but it tends to have an establishment Republican slant. I wish there were a non-establishment, constitutional, conservative competitor network to capture the rest of the huge American center-right market (hint, hint). We'd perhaps get a better post-election picture in the Tea Party era.

The point is, it's no longer establishment Republicans vying against Democrats. Thursday I got a mass e-mail from National Republican Congressional Committee chairman Pete Sessions with the subject line, "What's Scarier: 9.6% Unemployment? Or John Boehner?"

The purpose was to mock Democrats' recent attempts to demonize Boehner, who they assuredly now believe will be Speaker in the face of devastating losses in November. 

To Tea Partiers who have no allegiance to incumbents, however, it sends the wrong message. It's like asking them: "Who's worse? Obama, Pelosi, and Reid, or the failed Karl Rove Republican establishment?"

In that regard, Sessions' e-mail is like the famous Jack Benny skit in which a thief approaches him and demands, "Your money or your life." Benny pauses. The thief then says, "Well, what is it?" Benny replies, "I'm thinking; I'm thinking."

There isn't a Tea Partier who doesn't understand the danger of the Obama/Pelosi/Reid agenda. Any Republican taking any title for granted, however, is a problem. Now, you've got to earn it. With this first federal election of the Tea Party era, the choice is no longer between the lesser of two evils.

Christine O'Donnell is that lesson. At Friday's Values Voter Summit in Washington, she said, "They don't get it. We're not trying to take back our country. We are our country." That reminded me of another outsider derided by the establishment: Ronald Reagan.

With Democrats on the run in so many races, their resources are stretched. Democrats will need to rely on bitter Republicans to fend off O'Donnell's run in Delaware. Conservatives mustn't allow the bitter Republicans to destroy the chance to take the Senate by backing down from, or making excuses for, their establishment "friends."

The 2010 elections will show who's on our side. It's up to the people who care too much about America to no longer care what the establishment thinks of them.