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.”