Tea Party Delusions Die Hard

Sen. Mike Lee speaks at the 2013 Values Voter Summit on Oct. 11, 2013, in Washington, D.C.

Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images

The Republican party won a resounding victory in this week’s elections, even though the majority of Americans appear to disagree with its policy positions. There are reasonable explanations for this. Voters reliably turn against the president’s party during midterms, and Obama’s approval ratings have been in the pits. Turnout was especially low this year and dominated by older whites who tend to be conservative. Much of the country went to the polls to register nebulous anger at the White House rather than their specific feelings about federal spending.

Utah Sen. Mike Lee, a member of the Tea Party class of 2010 who has become one of the GOP’s more high-profile policy minds, has written a Republican to-do for the Federalist that vaguely seems to recognize this reality. The “party establishment and consultant class chose to de-emphasize Republican policy alternatives during the campaign,” Lee writes. “So despite that strategy’s apparent success Tuesday night, our new majority cannot claim a sweeping legislative mandate.”

Modesty! Coming from a man who was largely responsible for the government shutdown, no less. Maybe Washington isn’t heading for another two years of hellish gridlock after all.

But then Lee begins talking about the budget.  

The three most obvious Republican consensus principles—to me, anyway—are that our budget should:

1. Balance within ten years (without accounting gimmicks),

2. Not raise taxes, and

3. Repeal Obamacare.

These goals comprise the closest thing our party has to a mandate in the wake of this election, and my guess is that every House and Senate Republican is already on record supporting them.

So the GOP cannot claim a “sweeping legislative mandate,” but should enact massive spending cuts while burning down the president’s signature legislative accomplishment. This is like saying you’re going on a diet, and therefore will now subsist mostly on chili cheeseburgers and poutine.