EDITORIAL: Tea Party Tuesday

Elections in Georgia and Texas signal desire for change

The Tea Party hasn’t dominated the headlines in quite some time. Following its ballot-box success in 2010, the loosely organized small-government movement has taken a breather. Results from Tuesday’s primary elections in Texas and Georgia leave little doubt that the Tea Party is back and ready for action in November.

If anything, GOP voters are more concerned than ever over the obsession establishment Republicans have with holding on to power. The incumbent’s instinct for compromise instead of conflict is what allows spending to go up, no matter whether Republicans or Democrats are in control.

The Texas Tea Party took out its frustration with this state of affairs on Lt. Gov. David Dew-hurst, a Republican who has held a statewide elected office since 1999 and was the favorite to take the seat of retiring Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. Mr. Dewhurst ran as a conservative, but the Tea Party wasn’t convinced and sought new blood. They looked to Ted Cruz, the former solicitor general of Texas, as someone they believed more willing to take principled stands. Mr. Cruz came from behind to secure a 14-point victory.

As much as the left would like to dismiss the Tea Party as a collection of backward-thinking bumpkins, Mr. Cruz proves the opposite is the case. After graduating with honors from Harvard Law, Mr. Cruz clerked for William H. Rehnquist, who was at the time chief justice of the Supreme Court — a more distinguished way to start one’s career than, say, becoming a “community organizer.” Mr. Cruz will be a formidable force in the Senate should he win the Nov. 6 general election.

Though this Texas battle was about personalities, in Georgia the contest was over transportation policy. Peach State voters were asked to accept an $18 billion local sales tax hike that would have bankrolled a laundry list of “congestion reduction” measures. Tea Party groups marshaled enough opposition to defeat the tax hike in nine out of 12 districts. Sixty-one percent were opposed to the scheme in the final, statewide tally.

Business groups and establishment politicians from both parties had backed the “vote yes” campaign, peddling the well-worn theory that the current transportation funding system is “broken” and something needs to be done.

Tea Party groups were smarter than that, realizing these politicians just can’t stop spending. Activists showed the measure would have wasted billions on bicycles, buses, trains and trolleys without providing any meaningful relief to commuters stuck in traffic jams. They got the word out in townhall forums and by word of mouth.

At least 52 percent of the money raised by the tax, about $9 billion, was dedicated to public transportation, even though it is only used by 93,218 Georgia residents, according to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. It would be cheaper to give each bus rider a Ford Fusion sedan and a check for $70,000. Meanwhile, drivers in the Atlanta area suffer with the nation’s seventh-worst commute because transportation bureaucrats in Georgia, as in most of the country, refuse to concentrate on what really matters: expanding freeway capacity for the 4.1 million who drive to work every day.

Tuesday’s decisive votes show business-as-usual is no longer a winning strategy.

The Washington Times

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