Conservatives have been burned in the past. But their magical
thinking -- that politics can exist without giving an inch -- only weakens them.
Among tea party voters, there is a belief that the right is always getting sold out by the political establishment. In their telling, Reagan-era conservatives agreed to an amnesty for illegal immigrants on the condition that the law would be enforced going forward, then deeply regretted having done so. George H.W. Bush broke his "no new taxes" pledge. The Contract with America failed to deliver on many of its promises. George W. Bush joined forces with Ted Kennedy on No Child Left Behind, changed positions on campaign finance reform, and closed out his presidency by bailing out undeserving Wall Street firms. In all this, he was abetted by GOP legislators.
These tea party voters are sometimes justified in feeling betrayed. Other times, they misinterpret what happened. Right or wrong, however, they're powerfully averse to compromise. Mere mention of the word aggrieves them. They don't think of it as a means of bringing about a mutually beneficial change in the status quo, where one of their priorities is addressed in return for giving up something on an issue they care less about. When they hear the word compromise, the knee-jerk reaction is to oppose it. In their experience, going along with compromise is tantamount to getting screwed. The insistence that pols "stand on principle" is a defense mechanism.