“If [new Republican members] vote to uphold our core values, against pressure from their party leadership, we can give them the political backing they need,” says Martin [Jenny Beth Martin, national coordinator for the Tea Party Patriots], vowing that the Tea Partiers’ frantic pace of calling, e-mailing, rallying, and lobbying Congress will not slow.
They’re likely going to have a lot of opportunities to protest. Past Republican takeovers of the federal government have led to conservative activists feeling betrayed by concessions to political pragmatism and policy necessity: Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, and the last Republican Congress abandoned various pledges to cut spending and ultimately accrued massive debts. The same political and mathematical realities apply today: Social Security, Medicare, and defense spending are popular among the older voters upon whom the GOP relies. If you do not cut those programs, and you do not raise taxes, you simply cannot balance the budget—even if Republicans fulfill their campaign pledge to cut domestic discretionary spending down to its 2008 levels. “People think the two parties argue about government spending, but they’re really arguing over a very small piece of government spending,” says Scott Lilly, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank, and a former staff director for the House Appropriations Committee. Even Tea Partiers who would be willing to see spending cuts to defense or entitlement programs are being set up for unavoidable disappointment, because Republicans did not even propose any such cuts in their campaign platform.
Estimates are that the GOP will be able to cut spending by about $100 billion. Given the mess the Bush administration left us, that's not very much. Too, a huge portion of the Teabagger support comes from (drumroll please) old folks on scooters provided by Medicare who skipped rallies on the third of each month to await their Social Security checks.