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Tea Party activist: Republicans beware!

By Phillip Dennis, Special to CNN
Tea Party activists rally on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Election Day.
Tea Party activists rally on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Election Day.
  • Phillip Dennis says irresponsible spending caused Democratic losses, loss of faith in GOP
  • Dennis: Tea Party members are dedicated solely to fiscal conservatism, not politicians
  • GOP shouldn't read its victories as an enduring sign of support from the Tea Party, Dennis says
  • He says GOP will have to prove its commitment to fiscal responsibility

Editor's note: Phillip Dennis is the founder of the Dallas Tea Party and sits on a three-person steering committee. He is also the Texas state coordinator of Tea Party Patriots and an adviser to the National Tea Party Coalition.

Dallas, Texas (CNN) -- Tuesday's elections show America is indeed a center-right country. Americans widely rejected the Democrats' big-spending policies and sent the Democratic majority in the House packing. And rightly so.

For nearly two years, Americans told the Democrats they did not approve of expanded government programs with large price tags such as bailouts, the stimulus bill, Cash For Clunkers, cap and trade and "Obama care."

Time and time again, the Democrats, misreading their election win as a mandate to increase the size and scope of the federal government dramatically, rammed through unpopular legislation against the will of the majority of the American people. Tuesday, they paid the price for their arrogance and miscalculations.

The Republicans won by virtue of not being Democrats. They did little to earn their victory. To many, their Pledge to America is weak tea and doesn't go far enough in reducing spending and the size of the federal government.

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The Tea Party movement had much to do with the Democrats' losses -- just as the people who make up the Tea Party had much to do with the Republicans' losses in 2006 and 2008. The Tea Party supporters are fiscal conservatives and are loyal to no party or politician. While many in the Tea Party are Republicans, many are not.

The Tea Party movement has focused on fiscal responsibility and limited government while eschewing social issues. This has allowed fiscally conservative Democrats to find a home in the Tea Party movement while not abandoning their more progressive social viewpoints.

I was proud to help organize the first Tea Party in Dallas. Dallas was one of the first cities to protest the Obama stimulus bill at the inception of the current Tea Party movement.

Americans expressed their outrage at the size and cost of the stimulus and the fact that their leaders had not even read the $786 billion bill before passing it. It was political arrogance at its worst.

President Obama and the Democratic majority misread the 2008 election. They envisioned their victory as a mandate to take America to a European-type socialist democracy based on the legislation they have passed or proposed.

No one had any idea that cool February day in 2009 that the Tea Party movement would become a major power in American politics. Few in the Tea Party had ever been seriously involved in politics outside of voting in the general elections. But the outrage over the fiscal irresponsibility of the Republicans during the Bush administration raised the ire of fiscal conservatives.

As bad as the fiscal performance of the Republicans under President Bush was, no one was prepared for the avalanche of spending from Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The budget deficit in the fiscal year 2009, which included most of the first year of Obama's term and which included spending initiatives undertaken by both Obama and Bush, was four times higher than in 2008. The stimulus was the catalyst that brought everyday fiscal conservative taxpayers out of their homes and offices and into the streets in protest for the first time in their lives.

Americans no longer trust the Democrats from a fiscal responsibility standpoint. But Republicans should not read their massive victories as a love for their party from the Tea Party. The Tea Party is loyal to principles of fiscal responsibility and limited government, not party or politician.

If Republicans misread the intent of the American voter and are as fiscally reckless as they were during the Bush years, they soon will find themselves packing their bags and being replaced by a new crop of leaders who understand America will no longer tolerate reckless spending and misguided fiscal policies.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Phillip Dennis.