Michael Barone is sounding awfully ominous right now: “Has the wind gone out of the sails of the smaller-government movement? Is the Tea Party movement going through a hangover? You can find some evidence for these propositions. In Washington, Democrats like former National Chairman Howard Dean look forward gleefully to a government shutdown, and Sen. Charles Schumer thinks he can drive a wedge between Speaker John Boehner and “extremist” Tea Partiers. And in state capitals some new Republican governors are getting hostile receptions to their plans for cutting spending and curtailing the power of public employee unions. In Ohio, Gov. John Kasich has only 30 percent approval, according to a Quinnipiac poll. Pennsylvania’s Tom Corbett, easily elected last November, has negative ratings as well. And in the state that has made more headlines than any other this year, Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker is facing some headwinds. He did get the Republican legislature to pass limits on the bargaining powers of state employee unions. And union dues aren’t going to be deducted from public employees’ next paychecks. But the Democratic state senators’ tactic of leaving the state and the often violent protests at the state capitol have mobilized public employee unions and their supporters.”
At Hot Air, Allahpundit points out that you can’t keep the tea boiling perpetually: “Well, look. Victory in the midterms was bound to cool some people’s ardor. Conservatives were irate over unchecked Democratic governance, and now there’s a check in the form of a Republican House, so the temperature had to come down. The difficulty here isn’t convincing grassroots righties that they need to get their message out 24/7, it’s figuring out how to raise that temperature again to the point where people are out in the streets, knocking on doors, volunteering, organizing, donating, and so forth. Candidly, I don’t know how you do it; the best fuel is anger, but having just won a major legislative victory in Wisconsin — imperiled though it may be — some conservatives just may not be feeling the rage right now, no matter how vicious or intimidating the left tries to be.”
Instapundit points out that Tea Partiers have certain built-in disadvantages: “Also, the Tea Party people have real jobs. Unlike the unionized public employees in Wisconsin, they can’t just call in sick so they can spend a week in the streets. Plus, from the comments: “Isn’t the chairman of the RNC from Wisconsin? Couldn’t he pony up a bit or steer some donors that way so his state doesn’t go to hell in a handbasket?” Yes, a loss there — especially a loss without a big fight — will make Rience Prebus look bad.”
I’m reminded of The Hunt for Red October, and the anecdote that the defecting Soviet submarine captain, Marco Ramius, shares with his crew, “When he reached the New World, Cortez burned his ships. As a result his men were well motivated.” To go back on their pledges to cut government would be suicide in 2012; there’s no way the Republicans can win a spending race with Obama. Presuming Republicans decided to completely ignore the deficit and debt, Obama could simply promise to double whatever the GOP proposed spending. There’s no turning back. Republicans can either go down swinging, standing up for the concepts of limited government that they spent the past two years touting, or they can lose by a landslide.
The opposition’s message, every cycle, is essentially, “Vote for us for free ice cream.” The fiscally conservative message is, “there is no more free ice cream, and in fact the ice cream has never been free.” If selling that message were easy, we would never have gotten into this mess.