The stereotypical Tea Party Republican has certain flair: loud, angry, rambunctious, revolutionary. I say “stereotypical” because that does not encompass all Tea Party Republicans or those who adhere to the same principles but employ a different style and tactics.
A Republican elected official in Mississippi announcing a balanced budget and a full Rainy Day Fund, who has opposed and even thwarted massive bonding indebtedness, and who champions the Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act, protecting Mississippian’s guns rights (including a sales tax holiday on firearms and ammunition), enacting a moratorium on state vehicle purchases and prohibiting abortions after 20 weeks fits right into the Tea Party principles. “God Bless that champion of liberty,” they might say.
Meanwhile a Republican elected official announcing $80 million in transportation infrastructure repairs and university renovations; an increase in spending to state universities; a teacher pay-raise; and increased funding for the Mississippi Adequate Education Program might be received by the same people with skepticism. “Sounds like a RINO to me,” might be their thought.
Imagine if it were the same person. It is.
Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves does not fit into the stereotypical Tea Party mode. I doubt he would characterize himself as a Tea Party Republican. Tea Party leaders certainly view him more as an “establishment” Republican. But when it comes to principles – specifically the fiscal responsibility at the core of the Tea Party’s creation – you would be hard pressed to identify someone who has won more fiscal responsibility battles among recent Republican policy makers.
Now if you want to create a purity litmus test that includes opposing every bond bill; advocates cutting spending in every part of government and returning those cuts to taxpayers then neither Reeves nor no one else meets that standard.
But in a move which should have been applauded by Tea Party Republicans, but instead ignited widespread attacks by Reeves opponents, in his first year as lieutenant governor he stood by his principles and the legislature adjourned without its major bond bill. The Republican House sought more than $280 million in bonds; Reeves wanted to cut that by more than half. There wasn’t a lot of compromise available and when the House did not or could not meet his threshold, he walked away. Citizens were told the sky would fall. He was called a dictator. But he stood on principle to advance a fiscal conservative policy – and unlike failing tactics used by national Tea Party leaders – he won. It was also a very “Reagan moment.” Afterward opponents knew Reeves was not bluffing. And he provided quite a contrast in his first year as lieutenant governor to the year prior when a Republican Senate and Democratic House passed more than $400 million in debt in one bond bill.