Blame the Tea Party? Use Your Memory

The virus that causes people to go mad and vote Democrat has apparently spread to erstwhile conservatives.  Take Ann Coulter, please.  She writes:

For reasons of purity, we dumped an unbeatable Republican candidate and ran a conservative activist with no electoral victories to her in name for the U.S Senate from Delaware -- a state that hasn't voted for a Republican president in nearly two decades. For no good reason, we threw out another sure-winner incumbent Republican senator from Indiana. Driven by a "Privatize the Lighthouses" purity, we ended up with a narcissistic loon running for the U.S. Senate from Missouri.

Ann's not the only one, of course. Plenty of people who I used to think were on our side are blaming the "Tea Party," whatever that is.  The usual suspects are Christine O'Donnell (the Delaware case that Coulter refers to), Sharron Angle (Nevada), Richard Mourdock (Indiana), and Todd Akin (Missouri).  (Akin's problem had nothing to do with privatizing lighthouses, but everything to do with his theory of the reproductive process.)

Maybe you've heard the phrase, "use your words."  I tell people to "use your memory."  Let me refresh your memory with this chart.  (It took 50 Republicans to ensure majority control of the Senate while Bush was president.  After that, it would take 51.)

Source for numbers: US Senate.

On January 2, 2007, the U.S. Senate had 55 Republican senators.  Just over two years later, it had only 41.  Republicans lost majority control of the Senate in 2006, and then lost so many more senators in 2008 that the Democrats could finagle their way to filibuster-proof control.  For our sins we were saddled with the $830-billion Stimulus in 2009 and ObamaCare in 2010, causing a permanent increase in federal spending and regulation from then to infinity.  Those sins, by the way, were then baked into the cake.  All Democrats needed to do after that was insist on continuing resolutions. 

Look at those years again.  The loss of the both houses of Congress, Obama's election, the Obama Stimulus, and ObamaCare all happened before the 2010 elections, meaning before the first nationwide election in which the Tea Party existed.

And what happened immediately after the Tea Party came into existence?

(1)   A record-setting gain of seats in state legislatures, gaining control of 14 more chambers in the states and achieving control of both chambers in 26 states.

(2)   A gain of 64 seats in the House of Representatives, enough to win back majority control after four years of Democrat control.

(3)   A gain of 6 seats in the Senate, wiping out 75% of the devastating losses from the 2008 election.

Republicans won just about everything that could be won in 2010, except the Senate.  One reason for that?  Only one third of the Senate is up for election in any election year.

Thirty-five Senate seats were up for election in 2010, and only 19 of them were held by Democrats.  Do the math: to gain control of the Senate, Republicans would have had to hold all 16 of their seats and then win 10 of the 19 seats held by Democrats.  The actual result: they held all 16 of their seats and won 6 seats from Democrats.  Go ahead, blame the Tea Party.

But for Princess Ann, the pea under all those winning mattresses was Christine O'Donnell.  Use your math, Ann.  Let's hypothesize that both Tea Party ogres, O'Donnell and Angel, had won in 2010.  That would have given Republicans 49 Senate seats, still two short of majority control.  Those were not critical losses, even if you assume (and one can only assume) that the non-Tea Party Republicans would have won those seats.

And while we're assuming, let's assume that Richard Mourdock's and Todd Akin's primary opponents had won in 2012.  Then, instead of 45 Republican senators, we'd have 47, still well short of majority control.  Scott Brown lost in that same election, despite being the incumbent.  Too Tea Party pure?

Just prior to the Tea Party's existence, Republicans had 178 seats in the House and 41 in the Senate.  Today, two elections post-Tea Party, they have 234 seats in the House and 45 in the Senate.  Go ahead, blame the Tea Party.

People whining about the Tea Party are the real "purists."  They expect miracles from the Tea Party while accepting all the excuses in the world from non-Tea Partiers.  Let's review how this all started, shall we?

It was in the elections of 2006 that Republicans lost control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate.  And it was in 2008 that Democrats won the presidency and gained even larger majorities in both houses of Congress.

Now, what had happened prior to that?  The Tea Party didn't even exist, remember?  What happened was that Republicans had everything at the national level -- House, Senate, and president -- for the first time since 1954.  And they were not very Tea Party.

  • They forced Medicare Part D on us using the same kind of parliamentary shenanigans that the Democrats used with ObamaCare. That was the largest expansion of entitlements since LBJ. It would add almost $8 trillion to our unfunded liabilities.
  • They teamed up with Democrats like Ted Kennedy to give us Campaign Finance Reform and No Child Left Behind.
  • They increased federal spending from 18.2% of GDP in 2000 (the lowest level of spending since 1966) to 20.8% in 2008. That cannot all be blamed on war spending, either.
  • They mandated more ethanol in gasoline.
  • They expanded Clinton's Americorps.
  • President Bush signed onto legislation outlawing light bulbs.
  • And President Bush gave us the TARP bailout, which most Republicans in Congress voted for.
  • And this might be news to some of you: President Bush didn't deregulate anything. He increased the number of regulations, the number of people regulating, and the dollars being spent on regulating.

That is why we are in the mess we're in. The Tea Party is not demanding purity; it is demanding sanity.

We Tea Party types kept our mouths shut for 20 years and voted Republican as the Party nominated George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole, George W. Bush, and John McCain.  We bit our tongues as our president waxed wise about "compassionate conservatism" and Karl Rove talked of a new Republican era.  But they won two elections in 2000 and 2004, so we gave them the benefit of the doubt that they at least knew how to "win."  We were hoping to get two steps forward for every step backward.

But what were our forward steps?  What did we "win"?  Republicans spent more.  They regulated more.  They expanded programs we Tea Partiers had hoped to eliminate.  And they invented a whole new $8-trillion entitlement that none of us asked for.  We weren't looking for purity at all, but simply one iota of a difference from Democrats.

"But you can't expect to elect a Jim DeMint in Vermont."  No, but we did elect Jim Jeffords.  How did that work for us?  Arlen Specter?  Charlie Crist?  How many times do you expect us to kick Lucy's football?

So stop looking at the mote in the Tea Party's eye, and start looking at the beam in your own.  (That's a reference to Jesus's Sermon on the Mount, for those of you who might have forgotten it, or never learned it.)

Randall Hoven can be followed on Twitter or