If the U.S. government was a parliamentary system, Barack Obama’s Democratic Party rule would have collapsed by now with a vote of no-confidence. In our Constitutional system of fixed terms and elections, there may be no clearer sign of an impending political realignment then when a respectable congressional majority leader goes down in a primary defeat to an underfunded, almost unknown opponent — college professor Dave Brat. Brat’s plain-spoken, grass-roots campaign won by successfully connecting with average people and effectively communicating a clear and simple message of commitment to a balanced budget and a limited government with common-sense, limited priorities. Many pundits have declared the Brat triumph as a Tea Party victory.
Bill O’Reilly, the country’s most-watched news commentator, couldn’t see this coming because like so many others in the media, he hasn’t understood what the Tea Party phenomenon is all about. O’Reilly understandably cultivates ratings by positioning himself as a middle-of-the-road champion of the people (“Remember we’re always looking out for you”). But he does so by the dubious claim that center of the country is somewhere in the middle of the extreme left and the extreme right, the latter of which he suggests has its locus in the Tea Party. O’Reilly even describes these two sides as being driven by “loons” whose extremes pose a danger to the American people.
The extreme left — clearly ascendant in the Obama years — has wide representation in Hollywood, the media, universities, the environmental movement, union leadership and other special interest constituencies. For them, an effective way to achieve their ends is through big and intrusive government, more regulation and redistribution of wealth. In practice, the left’s success has been facilitated by shaping the culture through political correctness, misleading messaging, and exploiting every crisis for political gain. The Obama administration will be remembered for circumventing the Constitution and ruling by executive fiat through regulatory agencies such as the EPA.
In contrast, the so-called extreme right as represented by the Tea Party is actually far less ambitious, being animated by powerful, enduring ideas expressed in the nation’s founding through the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. For the Tea Party it has always been about freedom, the natural law of inalienable rights and the sovereignty of the people that requires limited government and fiscal responsibility.
Yes, the First and Second amendments are sacred to the right, but so is the 10th Amendment which reserves all rights and powers not delegated by the Constitution to the federal government to remain with the states and to the people. The majority of Americans and certainly those living in Wyoming, West Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Illinois — states which produce 70 percent of the coal that powers 38 percent of the nation’s electricity — do not agree with Obama’s latest unconstitutional mandate directing the EPA to effectively shut down the coal industry and cause electricity bills to skyrocket.
Dave Brat’s defeat of powerful Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor puts the lie to Bill O’Reilly and the major media’s depiction of the right manifest in the Tea Party as being a fringe in decline. It turns out that the Tea Party message and sentiments have enormous common-sense appeal, and are considerably more in sync with average Americans than is the left and the Democratic Party.
Most Tea Party activists simply want the Republican Party to adhere to its platform rooted in the nation’s founding ideals. In practice, the Tea Party’s priorities start with defending free markets, simplifying the tax code and balancing the federal budget. That vision and those priorities, heartily embraced and articulated by Dave Brat, enabled him to easily prevail over the well-connected and much better-known Eric Cantor, who had an astounding 25-1 campaign funding advantage.
Voters can take heart, while candidates running for nomination and November election should tremble and take notice. Brat’s win epitomizes the triumph of ideas over money and substance over form, which is after all what politics should be about.
Originally published at the Los Angeles Daily News.