In the aftermath of his 332 Electoral College landslide, left-leaning pundits and media talking heads have been touting President Obama’s “mandate” to the point that Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell took to the Senate floor to argue that, “In politics, there is always a temptation among those who win office to think they have a mandate to do what they will” and that, “the fact is, the government is organized no differently today than it was after the Republican wave of 2010.”
We agree with McConnell that Obama has no mandate based on his narrow win in the swing states, but neither do the establishment Republicans represented by Senator McConnell.
The “mandate” came two years ago in the 2010 Tea Party wave election and it was a rejection of both Obama and McConnell.
In the aftermath of the 2012 campaign to defeat Obama -- that uneasily united conservatives and establishment Republicans -- it is easy to forget that the Tea Party movement arose and was motivated by the failures of the Republican establishment and big government Republicanism as much as it was by the excesses of Obama and the Democrats.
The bailouts and the Wall Street cronyism that accompanied them, that led to Rick Santelli’s “rant heard ‘round the world,” began under big government Republican George W. Bush.
So did the vast increase in spending and borrowing. Beginning with the 2003 trillion-dollar Medicare prescription drug benefit and culminating with the actions taken to stem the 2008 financial meltdown -- the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, the bailout of insurance giant AIG and government-sponsored lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the ill-advised 2008 $600-per-person tax rebate, the stimulus add-ons to 2007's housing and farm bills, etc. -- government grew to consume over 27% of GDP.
As I pointed out in my book “Conservatives Betrayed,” the disastrous policies of the Bush-era spend and borrow establishment Republicans cried out for the corrective action that the small government constitutional conservatives of the Tea Party began, but have not yet completed.
This dissatisfaction and distrust of the national leadership of the Republican Party has led many conservatives to cast about for an alternative, or to simply stay home. The Center for the Study of the American Electorate put 2012 voter turnout at 57.5% of all eligible voters, compared to 62.3% in 2008 -- meaning as many as 12 million voters, many of them conservatives, stayed home this election. The low turnout in many Republican primaries should have been a clue that Mitt Romney’s carpet bombing strategy was winning him the nomination only by blowing holes in the Republican base.
Millions of conservatives have lost confidence in the establishment Republican Party, and that loss of confidence was only reinforced by the disastrous content-free campaign run by Mitt Romney and losing establishment Republican Senate candidates recruited and promoted by Senator McConnell -- such as Tommy Thompson, George Allen and Connie Mack.
As we said, the rise of the Tea Party was not so much a protest against President Obama as it was a vote of no confidence in the Washington insiders of the establishment Republican Party.
In the wake of the 2012 establishment Republican defeats -- and the 2010 rejection of his brand of establishment Republicanism -- if Mitch McConnell took responsibility for the results of his stewardship of the Senate GOP, he would resign as Senate Republican leader. But we don’t expect that to happen.
The good news is that the newly elected Republican Senators are not establishment Republicans. Ted Cruz of Texas, Jeff Flake of Arizona and Deb Fischer of Nebraska gained the Republican nomination and won election running as small government constitutional conservatives.
If anyone in Washington has a mandate, it is Cruz, Flake and Fischer, who have one to join Senators Jim DeMint, Mike Lee, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Pat Toomey and others to form the small government constitutional opposition to the radical leftwing policies of President Obama and the big government Republicanism of Mitch McConnell.