The Washington Establishment's Big Problem

The Washington Establishment's Big Problem

By Michael Needham and Tim Chapman - October 17, 2011

Nobody is happy with Washington. Polls showing public dissatisfaction with the federal government at an all time high of 81 percent make you wonder what in the world the other 19 percent are thinking.

It is no wonder the chattering classes in Washington are whispering about this unique moment being ripe for a third party candidacy. Mark McKinnon and Doug Schoen both have recent pieces in which they argue that the time is ripe for a centrist candidate.

While we agree that America is indeed at a special moment in history – one in which we could see a watershed moment in American politics – we fail to see how observers can reasonably conclude that the American people are clamoring for a ticket whose feature characteristics are moderation and abandonment of principle. Finding a middle road and going along to get along is how our nation ended up $14.8 trillion in debt. If the Republican Party were to live up to the opportunity it was given in the 2010 election, a third party would not be necessary.

Americans’ dissatisfaction with government, record-high disapproval of Congress and frustration with the current and past Administration is a reflection of the fact that our current political system is one that favors the powerful at the expense of those striving to build towards the American dream.

The Bigs – Big Wall Street, Big Government, Big Labor, and Big Business – are all protected classes in the American political system. The tax code, regulatory regime, and campaign finance laws are all written by those powerful enough to hire an army of lobbyists to descend on Washington. Labor unions pushed their way ahead of bond holders when the Establishment bailed out Chrysler. Solyndra got venture funding from the middle class taxpayer after spending $1.9 million lobbying the Establishment.

This corrupt nexus is at the heart of the dissatisfaction across the country towards Washington.

Our Founders created a Republic in which individuals were limited only by their determination to work hard. “America is an idea, not a place,” said Winston Churchill. And the great power of the idea behind America is that freedom, opportunity and prosperity are available to all who are willing to work for it. Why else would generations upon generations of immigrants risk life and limb to come to our great nation?

But the suffocating culture of The Establishment that now permeates the halls of power in Washington threatens to undermine the very bedrock of our country. This situation brings us to the moment in history at which we have arrived.

Yes, there is a thirst for a big change. Yet, the central characteristic of such an endeavor should not be centrism. The central characteristic of such a candidate must be a ruthless desire to fight for the individual, the entrepreneur, and the small businessman and to destroy the Establishment that exists only to protect and nurture itself.

To be sure, the Establishment is a bipartisan problem plaguing our nation. But this does not necessarily mean that the solution to the problem must be found outside the two-party system.

In 2010, the tea party movement struck the first blow to the Establishment by working within the Republican Party to elect limited government, constitutional conservatives. Because their aim is to return power to individuals and localities, the tea party is the only organic, grass roots movement in this country that is by its very nature subversive to the political Establishment and therefore to the culture of “The Bigs.”

Since the 2010-midterm elections there has been a quiet war going on within the Republican Party between the Establishment and the insurgent tea party movement. It is the outcome of this war, rather than whether a centrist third party candidate will emerge, that we believe is the crucial factor in determining whether or not our country will be able to rid itself of the destructive culture of “The Bigs.”

There is a great awakening of sorts that is sweeping the nation right now. Decades upon decades of Washington taking power from the people have been noticed. The collusion between the Washington Establishment and “The Bigs” is now apparent to average Americans. It was this great awakening that created the tea party movement and it was the tea party in 2010 that fired the first shots in the war.

The central question of this defining period of time in which we live: Will the Tea Party, with all its iconoclastic energy and goals, succeed in defeating the Establishment? For the country’s sake, let’s hope the answer is yes. 

Michael A. Needham is the chief executive officer of Heritage Action for America and Tim Chapman is the chief operating officer of Heritage Action for America (

Michael Needham and Tim Chapman

Author Archive

Follow Real Clear Politics

Latest On Twitter