- - Wednesday, May 9, 2012


Reports of the Tea Party’s death have been exaggerated greatly. Oh sure, Harry Reid may say it’s dead, and he clearly wishes it were so. The upset victory of Richard Mourdock in Indiana indicates the Tea Party is alive and well.

Something remarkable happened Tuesday night in Indiana. Voters from nearly every part of the Republican Party came together to vote for change. Not just any change - change from a well-liked 36-year incumbent. Let me note here that I mean no disrespect to my departing colleague, Richard G. Lugar, who is a gentleman and has served honorably.

But this kind of change does not happen very often in politics. Ninety-six percent of incumbents win. Defeating an incumbent is extraordinary and is evidence of an electorate that thinks government debt should be controlled. The chattering class complains about the death of the center and bipartisanship. We are told a safe seat has been endangered.

The reality is no such thing. We win as Republicans when we paint in bold colors. We win when we stand up for issues such as smaller government, constitutional principles, true liberty and the protection of life. We win when we take strong stands for the Second Amendment and the right to work. We succeed when our vision is clear and our principles are sound.

What happened on Tuesday was not one angry group of voters rebelling. It was not one or two conservative groups pushing an agenda. It was all of them, acting as one, urging the Indiana GOP to nominate someone who would stand with them.

I was in a similar situation in 2010. Throughout my primary, it was said ad nauseam that I could not win a general election. It was said that a candidate who stood with the Tea Party and fought so strongly against the Washington establishment would become roadkill in November. I won comfortably as voters saw and responded to a genuine message of change. The message was that of the Tea Party and constitutional conservatism. This is the message Mr. Mourdock will bring forward this fall, and I look forward to him fighting alongside me next year in the U.S. Senate.

The Tea Party sprang up out of two main events in 2008-09: the TARP bailouts and Obamacare. These were huge new reaches for big government. They were massive intrusions into running the private sector. They were against everything we as a party were supposed to stand for.

Senators and candidates who either were on the wrong side of these issues or simply did not stand up and fight have been deservedly running for cover ever since.

The Tea Party is not a single-issue group. Rather, it is a group that is fed up with an attitude in Washington. Tea Partyers are fed up with politicians who spend money we don’t have, racking up trillion-dollar deficits year after year.

They are tired of politicians who do not see limits in the powers of Congress and the federal government to intrude into our lives.

They are sick of being told they have to accept a mealy-mouthed version of what they believe and what they know we must do to save our country.

We must balance our budget sooner rather than later, or we will face ruin. This will require entitlement reform. Tuesday, Hoosiers voted for a candidate who publicly pledged to support the Tea Party budget in the Senate, which balances in five years.

We must repeal Obamacare and ensure that nothing like it passes ever again. Hoosier voters nominated the candidate who stood the strongest for the Constitution and for freedom.

We must fight to continue the small battles we already have won. Hoosier voters rewarded the candidate who pledged to keep the earmark ban and rejected the senator who just weeks ago voted to restore earmarks.

There is much hand-wringing also about outside groups in races such as these. Outside groups like the Tea Party groups, National Right to Work, Club for Growth and others certainly played a large role in this race, and this is as it should be. These groups are not special-interest groups lobbying for favors. They are principled organizations fighting for the government to leave them alone. The candidate who stood for such issues was rewarded and will be asked to stand for them again this fall.

Already the establishment cries that Richard Mourdock will not compromise - but compromise has been the name of the game for decades. Compromise leads to ever-escalating military and domestic spending. Washington needs statesmen, not horse traders. Our country needs principled leaders who will stand up and say no to trillion-dollar deficits.

I look forward to a class of Republican freshman senators next January who fit the bill of statesmen - and we will see this strong breed come forth out of primaries in the next few weeks and become victorious in November.

Sen. Rand Paul is a Kentucky Republican.



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