We already know two things for which the Obama
presidency will be remembered, and I am grateful for both of them. First, his
election emphatically marked a new frontier that pushed back boundaries of
obdurate racism. Second, his policy mistakes and political overreach ignited
the country’s political center to action over ruinous economic problems too
About the second, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto might have said
President Obama awakened a sleeping giant. His campaign rhetoric set the bar so
high that when his policies deepened and prolonged the economic crisis, the
electorate responded as if obeying a political version of Newton’s law of equal
and opposite reaction.
Partisan Republicans reacted as expected. And those who
believed Mr. Obama was too timidly borrowing, spending and nationalizing
industries also reacted. But the big surprise was a big swath of the political
center energizing in opposition to his massive expansions
The Sam Adams Alliance surveyed Tea Party leaders and
found no party has a lock on that new movement. Most of the leaders felt
aligned with the Republican Party, but 28 percent said they were politically
independent and another 11 percent identified with the Tea Party movement
itself. That breakdown reflects the center-right inclinations
of the nation as a whole.
Perhaps most importantly, more than 75 percent had never
before been involved significantly in politics. Are the hundreds of thousands
of Tea Partiers the awakened giant?
I hope so. For decades, our elected representatives in
Washington and Lansing have been growing government at the expense of our
freedom, dignity and prosperity. The Mackinac Center and our sister
organizations have been sounding the alarm. We’ve carefully and persistently
built the intellectual case that high taxes and spending levels are unsustainable
and even immoral.
While we won some victories, we lost other important ones.
Ironically, decades of remarkable economic growth in spite of poor policy
covered a multitude of policy sins. But now that growth has become anemic,
those sins are in full view to more people than ever before.
For a bright student whose parents don’t notice that he
neglects his homework, the report card eventually comes home with a grade of
“F” that does get Mom and Dad’s attention. The failing mark will likely trigger
better study habits or start a long slide to academic failure. While no one
wishes for a failing grade, one may be grateful for the chance to turn around a
Bright students do sometimes fail in school. Great, and
good, nations do fall. Along the way, there are usually warning signs and
missed chances to turn things around. I’m grateful if President Obama has
illuminated such an opportunity for us.
Candidate Obama said about his supporters in 2008, “We are
the ones we’ve been waiting for.” For those of us dedicated to limited
government and free markets, who have long sought a strong social movement to
undergird our ideas, it looks like the newly awakened Tea Partiers might be the
ones we’ve been waiting for.