When Republicans are in opposition, they have every political reason to obstruct a Democratic president’s agenda. Democrats, if given power, want to raise taxes and reduce military spending to pay for expanded social programs — the opposite of what Republicans’ preferences are. Furthermore, there is a benefit to denying an opposition party’s president any victories, because it makes that president look weak and incapable of getting anything accomplished. Conveniently, these goals are perfectly consistent with the goals of those who want to limit the growth of government, so it allows Republicans to cloak their more cynical motives in lofty limited government rhetoric.

When Republicans, given power, are consistently growing government and adding to the debt, it’s time to stop saying they’re abandoning limited government principles. The reality is, they do not actually have any limited government principles. Their priorities are lower taxes and higher military spending, and they are willing to accede to growth in entitlements and other government programs if that is what it takes to secure their first two goals. This is shortsighted, of course, because their failure to grapple with reality inevitably means the nation will one day face both higher taxes and severe military cuts. If the Tea Party, for all the disruption it caused, couldn’t change this dynamic, nothing ever will.