I’ve been listening to some of my fellow conservatives – especially Tea Partiers – complaining about the debt ceiling deal, in terms that start with “it’s awful” and often as not end with “well, it was a great run – time to start hiding gold under the mattress”.
To which I answer, as appropriate, “what did you expect when we only control the House?” and “if you’re not storing gold, ammo and food even in the good times, you’re nuts”. But I digress.
Ed Morrissey – with whom I co-host a radio show every Saturday on AM1280 – notes in The Week that it wasn’t a perfect victory for the Tea Party – there was no way for that victory to happen, at least not via democratic means, in this Congress with this President – but it was a victory nevertheless:
Who won, and who lost? Did anyone win? If we gauge winners and losers by the reaction from politicians and activists across the political spectrum, no one was satisfied with the deal reached between Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress and President Obama. Though it is arguably true that few actually advanced their agenda much in the deal, that doesn’t mean everyone came out of this deal equally worse off. Indeed, despite some dissatisfied rumblings from within the Tea Party, one lesson is clear: They succeeded in transforming Washington.
The codecil to that – one that the Tea Party needs to remember? Politics is not like a championship game, with a final end result that stands for all time. It’s a season – one that never actually ends. It’s one where everything that happens in this game – hurt quarterbacks, momentum gained and lost, everything - affects the next game, and the game after that, and games played after your children take things over.
The example I keep coming back to: handgun carry reform in Minnesota. When Concealed Carry Reform Now first formed, and started trying to change Minnesota’s racist, sexist, patriarchal weapon carry laws, they couldn’t even get time to talk with legislators – with “friendly”, Republican ones.
I can’t help but feel that some of the Tea Party conservatives who are complaining about the debt ceiling deal today would have fumed about the unfairness of it all back then, thrown in the towel and spent the next six years silently stewing. But I’d hope it’d be a teaching moment.
Because the next year…well, only a few legislators talked with CCRN. But it was more than the previous year. And CCRN’s mailing list bloomed, and outstate voters started paying attention.
And the next year? A few more legislators opened their doors. And CCRN’s mailing list started having an effect – legislators started hearing from more people, which opened still more doors.
And the next year? There was talk of a bill. It never happened, but legislators were getting the message in droves; CCRN’s volunteer lobbyists were getting audiences with key legislators.
And the next year? Well, the CCRN mailing list grew some more, and the DFL had to start playing defense.
And the next year? And the following? More of the same. The DFL – and their point man on the issue, Wes “Lying Sack of Garbage” Skoglund – had to crank the smear and lie machine up into full force, since it was becoming clear they had no basis in fact.
And the next year? There was a bill – and it died on the table (as I recall – I could very well have the specifics wrong, but it doesn’t really detract from the point). And CCRN’s mailing list told voters which legislators voted against it. And they got an earful, and a few of them – outstate DFLers who’d voted against the bill – lost their return tickets to Saint Paul.
And the next year? We won.
(And two years later, we won again, after a DFL-pet judge struck down the law on ludicrously selective grounds).
Viewed from the perspective of 1995, and 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002, we lost, lost, lost, lost, lost, lost, lost and lost again.
And yet without all the effort – and there was a lot of effort – expended from 1005 through 2002, there would have been no victory.
And the victory wasn’t won by simply wanting it badly enough – although you gotta have that. It was won by playing grassroots politics better than the other side. We – the pro-Second-Amendment movement – had to win over a lot of hearts and minds in the legislature, the media, and on Mainstreet Minnesota.
The Tea Party did transform American politics – once. It did it by convincing the American people last Fall that they had the best ideas for taking this nation forward.
And now they need to do it again – to win the Senate, the White House, and a bunch of State Houses and Legislatures, enough to really, seriously, totally revamp the way this nation views the relationship between The People and government.
And it’s not a sprint, or a single game; it’s a marathon, an endless season. Something that’ll challenge many Americans’ addled attention spans.
All the better.