Democrats seem bewildered by the strength of the Tea Party movement. Powerful incumbent Senators such as Boxer (CA) and Reid (NV), and numerous House Reps in leadership positions find themselves in difficult contests. Republicans are poised to gain significant numbers in the legislative branch in November’s mid-terms election.
Fighting back, Democrats and their supporters have gone after Tea Party-Republican candidates, focusing on their oddities, inconsistencies, and lack of coherent policies. Rachel Maddow, among others, has exposed the remarkably poor caliber of some candidates propelled by the Tea Party to victory in the Republican primaries.
Be that as it may, the legitimate complaint of the Tea Party movement has not been effectively dealt with by Democrats. The root groundswell of anti-government energy comes from fear and anger about deficit spending and debt.
In Canada, governments of the past decade worked hard to erase the substantial deficits of the 1990s. When the 2008 financial crisis arrived, Canada was able to face the recession with sound economic fundamentals. Increased public spending in 2009 and 2010 again created deficits, but helped Canada recover nearly all the jobs lost in 2008. Embarking on a new deficit spending program did not phase the public, and Canadian leaders are now talking about returning to surplus budgets in the next 7 years.
There is no tea party movement in Canada. National health care, yes. Major tax protests, no.
For all the things wrong with aspects of the Tea Party movement, from blaming the Obama administration for current ills to dredging up misguided social views, the truth is that the U.S. would have braved the recession far more effectively if it had had a budget surplus.
In not addressing this aspect of the financial health of the nation directly from the start, with a coherent long-term plan, the Democrats have allowed the opposition to bundle legitimate disapproval of the government’s budget outlook with generalized anger at banks, unemployment, the Bush administration, Congress, taxes, and government spending.
It’s working for Republicans so far, and if this election looks bleak, imagine Sarah Palin filling a stadium near you in 2012.
(Marc Seltzer has been on paternity leave after the birth of his daughter in June. Marc can also be heard reviewing U.S. Supreme Court cases at SupremePodcast.com)
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