Julian E. Zelizer: Tea Party Promises Won't Last

Roundup: Historians' Take

[Julian E. Zelizer is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. He is the author of "Arsenal of Democracy" and a book on former President Carter and editor of a book assessing former President George W. Bush's administration, to be published this fall by Princeton University Press.]

Christine O'Donnell shocked the political establishment last week with her victory in the Republican Senate primary in Delaware against Rep. Mike Castle. Like most Tea Party activists, O'Donnell has embraced the anti-Washington rhetoric that has been popular among congressional candidates in the current political climate.

She and other conservatives have criticized fellow Republicans, like Castle, for having become too comfortable in the nation's capital, too willing to work through the normal political process and to compromise on core principles.

"The people of Delaware have spoken. No more politics as usual," she said upon declaring victory.

This kind of anti-Washington rhetoric usually works well on the campaign trail, but it tends to vanish once a candidate is elected and starts the new job....

The Republican freshmen who took control of Congress in 1994 with similar promises also came to adapt to the ways of Washington. After the shutdown of the federal government that resulted from the budget standoff with President Clinton, many of the freshmen tempered their outlook as they compromised on issues such as Medicare....
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