Thursday marked the sixth anniversary of CNBC editor Rick Santelli’s famous “rant heard ’round the world” from the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade. It was the moment that launched a nascent movement, rousing conservatives to stand up to the radical presidency of Barack Obama. As I note in my recent book Wacko Birds: The Fall (and Rise) of the Tea Party, the Tea Party succeeded in stopping much of Obama’s agenda. It has since helped the GOP retake both Houses of Congress.
Last year, observers debated what the future of the Tea Party would be. Clearly, it has one. It will shape the presidential field for 2016 by creating obstacles for candidates who have taken an accomodationist approach to immigration, Common Core, and Obamacare. It will also limit the range of possible policy options on those contentious issues, as Congress faces off against a President determined to have his way. Yet on foreign policy, the Tea Party has yet to play a significant role.
Foreign policy and national security are becoming the most important issues in American politics. Partly that is because there is simply so much that is happening, and much of it is deeply alarming: the Russian war in Ukraine, the Iranian push for a nuclear weapon, the brutality of Isis. Yet foreign policy and national security are also rising to the fore because there is a sense that domestic policy is less contentious. Obama’s ideas are losing, and the Tea Party has re-framed the debates.
The Tea Party has always been ambiguous about America’s role in the world, and includes hawks like Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio along with skeptics like Rand Paul. Conservatives face a likely opponent in Hillary Clinton who has a long record of failure (and, now, alleged corruption) in foreign policy, but it is more experience than the GOP field has, collectively. Moreover, while the Obama-Clinton “reset” doctrine has failed, conservatives have struggled to articulate an alternative.
Though the conventional wisdom is that voters do not care about foreign policy, the next presidential election may be quite different. A new and healthy debate is about to begin about America’s role in the world–and this time, thanks to Santelli’s rant, it will be constrained by the knowledge that our resources are not limitless, and that our constitutional constraints on the executive really do matter. It is a dangerous, frightening time in world history–but an exciting time to be an American.
Senior Editor-at-Large Joel B. Pollak edits Breitbart California and is the author of the new ebook, Wacko Birds: The Fall (and Rise) of the Tea Party, available for Amazon Kindle.
Follow Joel on Twitter: @joelpollak