Perhaps the most revealing portion of Election Night 2010 coverage came when MSNBC pundits Chris Matthews and Lawrence O'Donnell asked one specific question that towered above all others.
The Republican right, the exclusive control mechanism of the party, had during the entire campaign leading up to Election Night coverage drummed over and over the point that if elected fiscal responsibility would be restored. The era of high spending would end.
The Republicans were spurred on by the newest and most vocal element of their constituency, the Tea Party. At scores of rallies held throughout America big government spenders were told that their days were numbered. Tea Party members were, in the words of Peter Finch in the great seventies' hit film "Network", "mad as hell and were not going to take it anymore."
Two major Republican figures from the House of Representatives were asked the same question. They were Tea Party favorites Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and forthcoming House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia.
Matthews started Bachmann off with another question. It was whether she intended to ask that House members be investigated for anti-Americanism, a point she had once advanced. He then quickly shifted to the question of the day, which was where Republicans intended to make specific cuts to reduce federal spending.
After asking both questions Matthews was, in baseball parlance, 0-for-2. All Bachmann did was swoon perpetually about how wonderful it was to be entrusted with power by the American people and how magnificent an evening it was. Matthews, feeling a mixture of disgust and chagrin, finally asked her if she was in a trance since she kept doling out sweet nothings while failing to answer his questions.
O'Donnell then asked Cantor the jackpot spending question about where Republicans intended to impose their cuts to reduce expenditures. The House Majority Leader in waiting delivered swooning paeans of delight over faring so well before America's voters, sounding much like Bachmann.
Now the time of beckoning is closer at hand. Where will Republicans seek to impose cuts? One area where the Republican congressional leadership and their vigilant Tea Party enthusiasts could be at immediate loggerheads is over the issue of raising the debt ceiling, a step that must inevitably occur for the government to continue to handle its obligations, indeed, to systematically function.
Bloody internecine warfare could be the result if Tea Party activists stick to their guns and the Republican leadership accepts pragmatic responsibility by biting the bullet. Tea Party purists have indicated that under no circumstances could they support such a move.
Proceeding beyond that point, just where can significant cuts be made, the kind that would make a substantive impact? Republicans are strongly bound to the Pentagon and the military-industrial complex. Will funding cuts be recommended when Afghanistan and Iraq remain?
Also, how vigilant have Republicans been in the past in holding the Pentagon's budgetary feet to the fire? Remember the grand old days of the Reagan Administration where money was thrown at the Pentagon? Remember the debt that resulted?
What about entitlements? Baby boomers are reaching the point where they are able to receive Social Security and Medicare benefits. Will the new Republican team of prospective budget cutters seek to impose a Spartan regimen?
We recall what happened earlier this week when enough pressure was generated on Republicans on behalf of 9/11 responders in the area of needed medical benefits. Would the Republican leadership be treated with kid gloves if draconian measures were advanced in the Social Security and Medicare realms?
Let the discussion begin. Where do you stand, Republican majority? Will you carry an emboldened Tea Party mindset into the 2012 election? Do you dare embrace such a collective policy?