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If there is anything that has been lost in the debt ceiling debate, the phrase “elections have consequences” might top the list. Due to the latest negotiations, there has been a “Boehner must go!” revolt brewing among Tea Party activists. Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips accuses the House Speaker of “surrendering again” for abandoning last week’s Cut, Cap and Balance plan in favor of new legislation aimed at slashing $900 billion over ten years in exchange for raising the debt ceiling. The backlash resulted in a highly anticipated House vote on the Boehner plan being postponed late Thursday night pending more back-room wrangling. Tea Partiers have every right to be angry, but it is an anger which must be measured against reality: liberal Democrats control the Senate and the presidency. Despite the 2010 election, it’s still two against one.
Toss in a mainstream media which has referred to Tea Partiers as “domestic extremists,” a “Hezbollah faction” taking the G.O.P. on “a suicide mission,” and “male elephants…oozing a weird, foul-smelling, greenish glop from glands near their eyes, behav[ing] with violent abandon, taking risks and defying the basic rules of pachyderm propriety” and it becomes three against one.
That such descriptions are hyperbolic and inaccurate, to say nothing of an utterly hypocritical abandonment of the Left’s professed desire to “tone down the rhetoric” following the shooting of Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, is without question. Are they effective? The Republican-led House has passed two plans and was negotiating a third late Thursday. The Democratically-controlled Senate killed the Ryan Plan, tabled Cut, Cap and Balance rather than pass or defeat it, and labeled Mr. Boehner’s latest effort DOA, with 53 Democratic senators pledging to vote against it. The White House has promised a veto. Senate Democrats have proposed a plan of their own, but have passed nothing.
So who takes the hit if debt ceiling talks fail? According to the latest Pew Research Center/Washington Post poll, Republicans more than the Obama administration, by a 42 to 33 percent margin.
Tea Partiers undoubtedly consider the poll results a triumph of a biased mainstream media, which has simultaneously highlighted Republican “extremism,” while it has underplayed equal, if not greater amounts of Democratic intransigence. Intransigence exemplified by the Democrats’ failure to pass a budget when they controlled both houses of Congress and the presidency, the Senate’s failure to pass a budget in over 800 days, and the president’s failure to garner a single vote on the only budget he’s ever presented.
Do the Tea Partiers have a legitimate beef? The answer is irrelevant. The media doesn’t vote on the debt ceiling, and Tea Partiers are quick to forget they were just as hostile prior to the 2010 election, in which Tea Partiers were enormously successful. Conservative economist Thomas Sowell explains what’s important: “Is the Boehner legislation the best legislation possible? Of course not! You don’t get your heart’s desire when you control only one house of Congress and face a presidential veto,” he writes. “The most basic fact of life is that we can make our choices only among the alternatives actually available. It is not idealism to ignore the limits of one’s power. Nor is it selling out one’s principles to recognize those limits at a given time and place, and get the best deal possible under those conditions.”
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