By Christine Todd Whitman
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
PRESIDENT Obama rode into the White House on a wave of optimism. “Change we can
believe in,” however, quickly tempered into something ordinary in the eyes of many of
the same Americans who had voted for him. CNN’s Sept. 24 poll showed that less than
two years after his election, Obama is now facing an approval rating of 42 percent, with
54 percent of Americans disapproving of his performance. The “hope and change” agenda
has disappointed many, who now appear to want retaliation.
It is no coincidence that the rise of the Tea Parties has occurred almost simultaneously
with the deflation of the Obama revolution. Voters want to lash out at the establishment
they feel has wronged them. Stimulus spending has failed to lift us out of the
recession, health care legislation that most Americans did not want was passed and the
continual increase in the national debt has resulted in a sense of betrayal and fury.
The CNN poll revealed that while only 37 percent of voters would vote for a candidate
backed by Obama, nearly 50 percent would vote for a candidate backed by the Tea Party.
Manifestation of anger
The Tea Parties are a manifestation of the anger of a country betrayed by false hope in
big government. Fury and betrayal, however, are not coherent values on which to found
public policy. They can be useful for directing people toward larger issues, if a party has
larger issues in mind and the ability to implement them.
Unfortunately, the “Throw the bums out” mentality will only give us a group of people
who are against the status quo, but incapable of accomplishing anything towards those
Christine O’Donnell’s surprise upset in the Delaware primary is a perfect example of this
trend. Fueled by a wave of discontent, she defeated Mike Castle, a U.S. congressman and
former governor who was widely known for being reasonable, effective and fiscally conservative. He would have been heavily favored against Democrat Chris Coons in the
Instead, by electing an individual who has almost no credentials in a career of politics, a
seeming inability to manage her own finances and a series of views out of step with the
mainstream, Republicans will almost surely fail to gain this seat and will have very little chance of recapturing control of the Senate.Fleeting victory
While O’Donnell supporters can revel in their ability to galvanize enough voters in a small
primary to defeat the establishment, that smugness will be fleeting when we end up
with further Democrat control in Washington.
Even if O’Donnell is successful in the general election, how will she be able to work with
people in her own party, much less those across the aisle, to actually effect progress?
Let me be clear: I am in favor of grassroots activism, and I have consistently advocated a
return to fiscal conservatism in Washington. I fully support these aspects of the Tea Party m
ovement, but I starkly differ from those individuals and groups within that movement
who require ideological litmus tests on social issues, or support an anti-establishment
agenda simply for that agenda’s sake.
We have serious problems we need to address in our nation, and gridlock born of
extremism is not going to produce solutions.
As Republicans assess this election cycle and begin to develop candidates for future
ones, we must take the positive aspects of this anti-establishment anger and direct it
towards goals we can actually accomplish.
To those who think throwing the status quo out will solve our problems, be careful what
you wish for.