The Tea Partiers' energy swept some of the dimmest ideologues into power, and now they're set up for a crushing letdown as those legislators confront reality and end up reneging on their murkily defined promise to "take our country back."
The next two years will prove eye-opening to the Tea Partiers for a very simple reason: the government doesn't actually spend our tax dollars on what their leaders have told them it does. Only a tiny fraction of the budget is dedicated to foreign aid or assistance for the "underserving" poor. Not only is a lot of "pork" popular -- local projects of various stripes -- but earmarks make up a tiny fraction of the budget. And after several decades of privatization, there's just not a lot of fat to be cut from discretionary spending programs -- hell, non-security discretion spending only makes up around 15 percent or so of the total.
So there won't be $2.5 trillion in budget cuts forthcoming, and if there were it'd be taken out of Social Security benefits and the like -- and 74 percent of Tea Partiers oppose benefit cuts to reduce the deficit (cuts are for thee, not for me!). All they're going to end up getting are minor cuts that piss off liberals -- National Endowment for the Arts, NPR, that kind of thing. And even those modest cuts probably won't get past the Senate.
Add in the inevitable corruption that seems especially prevalent among people who believe government is the problem, and these Tea Party folks are going to be even more disgruntled than they already are.
Now, I enjoy indulging in a bit of Schadenfreude as much as the next guy as Republican leaders twist themselves up in knots when faced with the question of exactly what programs they want to cut. But we should keep in mind that a lot of very passionate right-wingers -- many heavily armed and deeply infused with anti-Government rhetoric -- are no longer going to feel that they have a vehicle for political participation in the Tea Parties.
And that, I fear, may lead to more violence.