Every poll on voter sentiment is saying the same thing - the principal concern for the electorate going into the 2010 election is the state of the economy and government's relationship to it. Far and away, the economy is the biggest issuethe vast majority of voters would see the next Congress tackle with priority and competence. And conservative candidates are rightly putting attention and emphasis tothe application of well crafted public policy based on free market principles to the issues of jobs, taxes, economic growth, housing, lending, etc.
However, it's a serious mistake to pretend the issues driving voter discontent can be solved with a healthy dose of fiscal conservatism alone. Think back for a moment and recall what drove citizens to speak out at town hall meetings against the president's health care agenda... and what drove the Tea Party movement to come together. Yes, out of control government spending generally and stimulus spending in particular played a big part of it, alongside unemployment rates, record rates of foreclosure, depressed housing prices, a big hit to their 401K, private sector pay freezes and pay cuts, fear at the prospect of inflation, deflation, stagflation, the Federal Reserve expanding the money supply, etc.
But there was and remains considerable concern in the area of government intrusiveness into people's lives, unresponsiveness to the electorate and the principles under which this nation was founded, and an overreaching by the federal government, engaging in activities outside of its intended, proper, and some would argue, legal scope while at the same time the federal government fails in living up to obligations clearly defined and always intended to be performed by it, such as in immigration and securing the borders as well as national defense in general, in promoting a healthy and prosperous private society, in defending our civil liberties and our way of life.
It is true, Tea Partier's want a smaller, leaner, and more competent government. But its not true they want it only as a matter of fiscal responsibility. You probably wouldn't hear this word often at a rally, but if you listen to people's concerns and compare it to it's definition - it should be a buzz word for conservative reform: subsidiarity. Yes, cutting government spending to arrive at budget surpluses capable of beginning to pay down the national debt while covering obligations is a fiscal necessity (I know it sounds an extreme fantasy to reach beyond merely "reducing the deficit" as people are known to say in Washington) but doing so intelligently, by right-sizing government and having it do only that which it ought and no more or no less, by making sure it doesn't intervene or interfere where it's not needed, and by promoting that healthy and prosperous, mature and capable private society we all desire, in solidarity.
It's no surprise this dissatisfaction, and discontent with government has seen a grassroots movement spring up and demand both fiscal responsiblity AND a return to the principles of the Framers and Founding Fathers in limiting government to its proper role in society. Why? Becasue they go hand-in-hand. Enacting the level of fiscal restraint now needed to put America back on course will require a significant reordering of public and private social structures such that government does perform well only what it is supposed to perform, and private society reassumes its obligations which were, at some point along the way, taken away from it by an expanding government, encroaching where it ought not, and collecting taxes to perform its trespass.
At every step along the way, fiscal reforms which would serve to defang a voracious government appetite for spending would need to be accompanied by a coherent, deliberate public policy to transition society toward a stable transfer of authority and obligation back to the states, and to the People and private institutions where they have always rightly belonged. To amend the law, both civil and criminal, where it is deemed necessary - where there is bad law, where the courts have engaged in an activism well beyond their authority, or where the Legislature abused or misused theirs in enacting laws contrary to American principles of liberty and justice - in tandem with fiscal reforms, legislative and legal reforms are sorely needed to arrive at a true prosperity and are ultimatey complimentary in preserving and protecting that smaller, leaner, more competent, and responsible government Americans demand.
Perhaps we'd rather it be more simple - that our nation's problems can be resolved on a spreadsheet, and by cutting taxes and reducing wasteful spending. But its rather quite a bit more complicated than that, and we cant afford to pretend its not. Not even for one or two elections cycles. Especially not now.
It's more than the economy.
Pax et bonum