But beyond the issue of what should be done in regard to the debt ceiling, Meckler cites a growing frustration with the “back room” nature of recent negotiations on budget issues, which is at the heart of the American public’s general wariness of Washington politics. “We’re sick and tired of this process where politicians go into a back room,” he says. “Lord knows what they do in there. If it’s Boehner and Obama, maybe they light up a couple of cigarettes. We don’t know how they’re selling us down the river. But that’s exactly what they’re doing.”
One reasonable solution would be to have the debate in the Senate Budget Committee broadcast on C-SPAN, where taxpayers can see for themselves. “Politicians work for the American people,” Kremer says. “There’s no reason why we shouldn’t see what’s going on inside those talks.”
The Tea Party’s palpable frustration with Republican leaders since the April budget deal has led many media types to speculate that the movement is losing its relevance. “Can the Tea Party Survive a Debt Ceiling Deal?
” read one recent headline. This is nothing to be concerned about, Meckler says. “I just laugh. They’ve been predicting our demise since February 2009, when we first got started.”
Tea-party members may cringe at the contents of an eventual deal to raise the debt ceiling, but they can at least take satisfaction in the extent to which they have driven the debate on fiscal issues in Washington and around the country. “The debate is a tea-party debate,” Meckler says. “From the school boards and city councils to state governments all the way up to the presidency, the debate is now dominated by tea-party-imposed discussions. If that’s becoming irrelevant, if that’s the definition of fading away and failure, then we’ll take that any day.”
— Andrew Stiles is a 2011 Franklin fellow.