Happy Anniversary, Tea-Party Hobbits
July 27 marks the one-year anniversary of the Wall Street Journal editorial that gave birth to the term "tea-party Hobbits." On that day, the Journal opined:
The idea seems to be that if the House GOP refuses to raise the debt ceiling, a default crisis or gradual government shutdown will ensue, and the public will turn en masse against ... Barack Obama. The Republican House that failed to raise the debt ceiling would somehow escape all blame. Then Democrats would have no choice but to pass a balanced-budget amendment and reform entitlements, and the tea-party Hobbits could return to Middle Earth having defeated Mordor.
This is the kind of crack political thinking that turned Sharron Angle and Christine O'Donnell into GOP Senate nominees. The reality is that the debt limit will be raised one way or another, and the only issue now is with how much fiscal reform and what political fallout.
Later that same day, John McCain took to the Senate floor and criticized those in Congress who were opposed to raising the debt ceiling limit unless there was an agreement to balance the budget. As support for his criticism, he read from the above Journal editorial. McCain's criticism went viral, resulting in the Tea Party's embrace of the Hobbits, the heroes of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
McCain also attacked one of the most visible Tea Party members of Congress, Michele Bachmann. Bachmann, along with two other House members, had recently introduced a bill that would require that priority be given to payments to military members. This was done in response to Obama's threat to not make these payments in the event the debt limit was not increased. McCain said:
There are those that argue somehow in a bizarre fashion that somehow we could prioritize our payments to the most urgent requirements, such as our veterans, such as Social Security.
I was not then, and I am not now, sure what McCain found bizarre about a law to prioritize payments. (As an aside, John McCain's Senate website, which contains hundreds of his speeches, floor statements, editorials and media appearances, does not contain the text or video of this speech.)
On August 2, 2011, McCain got what he wanted, and the debt ceiling was increased by $2,100,000,000,000 (see page 12 of this report). Since that date, the government continues to operate without a budget, and spending is more out of control than ever. So thanks to John McCain and the other non-Hobbits in Congress, the best opportunity since the 2010 election of Tea Party-supported representatives to begin to reverse the unconstitutional abuses of federal spending was defeated. Three days later, for the first time in the history of the United States, our credit rating was downgraded.
The Tea-Party Hobbits, having not gotten their way in August of 2011, did not return to Middle Earth. Instead, they have continued to do what needs to be done to restore our constitutional republic. Hobbits helped in the victories of Scott Walker and Rebecca Kleefisch in Wisconsin, Deb Fischer in Nebraska, Richard Mourdock in Indiana, and Anna Little in New Jersey, just to name a few. Hobbits are involved in primaries and elections at the city, county, state, and national levels. For Tea-Party Hobbits, there is no returning to Middle Earth. Why? Perhaps the answer was best expressed by Abraham Lincoln during a short address he made while visiting the city of Gettysburg:
It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us--that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion--that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the hobbits, by the hobbits, for the hobbits shall not perish from the earth.
Marc Hopin is the author of the children's book The Tooth Fairy Needs Your Teeth.