Jim DeMint | Before winning America, conservatives must win the GOP

As we move ahead, we must remember that there is a distinction between the Republican Party and the conservative  movement. National Republican leaders have not advanced  a conservative agenda for almost 20 years.

Not since the first few years of the Republican revolution in the 1990s — when welfare reform and a balanced budget were passed — have congressional  Republicans seriously championed conservative ideas. By the time I arrived in  the House in 1998, my party was increasing spending and handing out earmarks  like candy.

The spending binge continued. By 2006, Americans had seen enough, and  Republicans lost the majority in both houses. This was not a rejection of  conservative policies. It was a rejection of unprincipled governance.

In 2008, things got even worse as Republicans helped pass bailouts for big  banks on Wall Street, and for Fannie  Mae and Freddie  Mac. Barack Obama was elected, and  Republicans lost even more seats in Congress.

It wasn’t long before the far-left policies of Mr.  Obama and a rudderless GOP finally  woke Americans from their apathy. Conservatives, libertarians, independents and  even recovering liberals came together in groups called Tea  Parties all across the country. They had a unified, simple message: “Stop  the spending, borrowing, bailouts and government takeovers — and restore  constitutional, limited government.”

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