FrontPage’s Person of the Year: The Tea Party

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Early portents of Tea Party power came in the form of Massachusetts junior senator Scott Brown, who assumed “liberal lion” Ted Kennedy’s seat in the January 2010 special election, and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, the first Republican governor to be elected in New Jersey in 12 years. Both enjoyed a wellspring of support from Tea Party activists within and outside their respective states. From this standpoint, the 2010 midterm election looked like it would be a good year for conservatives.

Few predicted that the election would be as historic as it actually was, surpassing even the “Gingrich Revolution” of the 1990s. In terms of immediate political success, however, the impact of the Tea Party was a wild card in some cases. While candidates like Marco Rubio of Florida, Rand Paul of Kentucky, and Nikki Haley, governor-elect of South Carolina, were able to use Tea Party support to beat not only their liberal opponents in the election, but their Republican establishment opponents in the primaries, others, such as Christine O’Donnell of Delaware, Sharon Angle of Nevada, and Joe Miller of Alaska could not manage the same success. In these cases, personal foibles and eccentricities played a significant role in their defeat.

Although the Tea Party may have been an obstacle to conservative victory in select races, if the conservative voter “enthusiasm gap” can be identified with the Tea Party phenomenon, and indeed, conservative Tea Party supporters were by far the most enthusiastic voters in the midterm election, then the presence of the Tea Party was an overall boon to the Republican Party. The charge that “less electable” Tea Party candidates may have cost Republicans a few seats is unfortunate (if true), but it is overshadowed by a new competitiveness among conservative candidates and that, as conservatives say, makes us better.

The Tea Party has also helped bring much needed aesthetic diversity to the face of conservatism — and serious new political talent to the fore. The favored liberal characterization of the GOP, which was regrettably presented in excelsis by 2008 presidential contender John McCain, was “pale, stale, and male.” This image was shattered during the 2010 midterm election by a much more diverse stock of high profile candidates, either in gubernatorial or congressional races. Many of these individuals may have serious political futures ahead of them. South Carolina governor-elect Nikki Haley exacted a huge upset over not just her Democratic opponent, but also many in the SC Republican establishment. Haley faced serious opposition in the gubernatorial primary, but was a Tea Party favorite. Rising star Marco Rubio, the “un-Obama,” was largely supported by Tea Party forces, and made short work of both Obama-ally, incumbent Kendrick Meek and the (presumably) top Florida GOP leader, Governor Charles Crist. Rubio’s political gifts cannot be overstated, and the maturity of his political career will be fascinating to watch.

The 2010 election proved the Tea Party’s strength. In many ways, the movement has done enough to fall complacently back into slumber. So, what is on the horizon for the Tea Party? Does the it have the fortitude to face President Obama head on in 2012? Most of the front-runners for 2012 GOP presidential candidates — Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin — fall short of the adequate support needed to defeat Obama. Yet, recall the low opinion Tea Party supporters generally had of John McCain (and his party). If Tea Partiers can maintain movement enthusiasm, and if an actually inspiring candidate emerges, President Obama has every reason to be concerned. The battle for the presidency in 2012 will likely be very competitive.

Commentator Arthur Brooks has described the Tea Party as a new front of a culture war. “America [can] continue to be an exceptional nation organized around the principles of free enterprise — limited government, a reliance on entrepreneurship and rewards determined by market forces,” Brooks said in the Washington Post, “[or] America will move toward European-style statism grounded in expanding bureaucracies, a managed economy and large-scale income redistribution. These visions are not reconcilable. We must choose.” The problem is, the Tea Party notwithstanding, the outcome of this war is nowhere certain. Even under Republican leadership, the size and scope of government has increased every year. The government spends more, controls more, takes more. And to some extent, polls have shown, the populace is in favor of this direction. Can it be stopped? Or are we inevitably headed toward European decline? Perhaps most importantly, the Tea Party represents the hope that our fate of joining the other corpses of Westernism is not sealed — that we will always be a society that protests for the government to do less and not more. As recent events have shown, there is plenty of room for optimism.

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  • okrahead

    NAACP issues news release labeling Tea Party a hate group, read it here…

  • USMCSniper

    Obama has a ruthless quest for power. He did not come to Washington to make something out of himself, but rather to change everything, including dismantling capitalism. He can’t be straightforward on his ambitions, as the public would not go along. He has a heavy hand, and wants to level the playing field with income redistribution and punishment to the achievers of society. He would like to model the USA even left of Great Britain or Canada . The current level of spending is irresponsible and outrageous. We are spending trillions that we don’t have. This could lead to hyperinflation, depression or worse. No country has ever spent themselves into prosperity. The media is giving Obama, Reid and Pelosi a pass because they love their agenda. But eventually the bill will come due and people will realize the huge bailouts didn’t work, nor will the stimulus package. These were trillion-dollar payoffs to Obama’s allies, unions and the Congress to placate this base, the left.

  • C_T_CZ

    Uh sorry but the author does not mention Ron Paul as the father of the tea party, which means the author really did not understand the full political dynamics at play. As a refresher, Ron Paul supporters had a moneybomb in 2007 on the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party, where we raised over $6 million in 1 day.

    The discontentment againt both political parties was clearly evidenced throughout the entire Ron Paul campaign by his supporters, and has direct and unmistakable ties to the current tea party makeup and political philosophies. You think some news reporter started the tea party? By just making a statement where a video was captured and aired by the Drudge Report? That is complete hogwash. Had the political environment for the tea party not existed, that video would have fallen on flat ears and been unnoticed. Indeed, it was the political climate at the time that gave rise to the tea party, and that political climate (for the folks who then subsequently labeled themselves as part of the tea party) was CREATED by Ron Paul supporters!

    Had Ron Paul not ran in 2008 for president, we would not have a tea party today. Period.

    • evergreen78

      I know NOW about Ron Paul's tea parties; however, at the time of the Rick Santelli rant, I didn't. I don't know whether Mr. Santelli knew about the Ron Paul tea parties or not. All I know is, Rick Santelli said "tea party" in Feburary 2009, it was on TV, & by Tax Day 2009, people all over the country were gathering in huge numbers, a phenomenon which was covered (mostly negatively) in every news medium. I don't recall seeing Mr. Paul's tea parties on TV, or anywhere else. Like I said, I never heard of them until AFTER I had been to some TEA (Taxed Enough Already) Parties.

      Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying anything bad about Ron Paul. I'm saying that I was one of the "individuals erstwhile unengaged in the political process" mentioned in the above article. I only developed what I call my "news hobby" in September 2008, when the economy went in the toilet. Frankly, I blame LESS the politicians than the Mainstream Media for the situation we're in. They have purposefully kept us uninformed or misinformed, which I never knew before.

      Regardless of who owns the "copyright" to the Tea Party label, I'm just glad we're here. I'm grateful to know I'm not alone. I am grateful for this article, because I am sick of being called an ignorant, uneducated, racist, sexist, bigoted, homophobic, islamophobic teabagger, both in public and in private, by people I know & by people I don't know, because I, for one, am NONE of those things, & neither is anyone I've met in the Tea Party Movement. Thank you, FrontPage, for the pat on the back! :)

      • Peni AZ

        Well said, I to never heard of Ron Paul Tea Party. I watch CSNBC daily and I watched as Mr.Sentella said the words, plus I remember see on a live stream on the internet about a group of peolpe putting tea in the Boston Harbor. I felt the day this man came to office we as a nation were in trouble. I was 17 years old when Ronald Reagan came to office, I was looking for a job and trying to go to school when I needed a car. I paid 19.5% intrest for a Ford Escort with no AC,( I live in AZ). Obama and his policy's
        were going to place us back to those day's and I needed to become informed and involed. I'm one of those people and very proud to call myself one. God Bless the USA

        • Mark

          Many people I spoke with talked about a symbolic "tea party" event to show disgust for the bailout long before Santelli or Paul did anything national. It's part of our heritage and it was natural for the conservatives to simultaneously fall under that label do to the similarities in philosophy with the originals.

  • Stephen_Brady

    The next two years will be the most important in America's history, possibly even more so than World War II. The Tea Party is virtually the only hope we have for keeping the GOP's "feet to the fire" in the House, and making gains in the Senate, along with a brand-new president in 2012.

    If these things don't happen, the United States will be little more than a shadow of its former glories, just a few years from now. Only the Tea Party and the conservative blogs on the internet can stop the terrors that lie ahead.

    Good choice, FPM …

    • Peni AZ

      Don't forget that at the State level we changed may seats. I for one will be keeping a eye on all the level's of government. If we have any hope of changing things the State is were we have to start. I'm one that believe's that the States right have been lost and that to much of the Fed's controll us. Some of you may know about the fight my state is having with the Fed's (AZ). I will be supporting all efforts for States Rights.

      • Stephen_Brady

        I agree with you, wholeheartedly. Some 680 state legislive seats, nationwide, changed hands on Nov. 2, along with a number of governors. This gives us all reason for hope.

  • waterwillows


    I do agree with you that spending billions that the nation does not have will indeed bring the bill into their face.
    The only bright spot in this, is that the lefty journalists will be beating the pavement for a job that is not there. Without government payouts to the media for propaganda news, there would be no media. The people hate them.

  • Guest

    "Even under Republican leadership, the size and scope of government has increased every year. "

    So true. Not a single GOP president, including Reagan, made any serious attempt to scale back the expanding alphabet bureaucracies started by FDR. Some like Nixon and Bush junior have expanded them. The so-called GOP is a schizoid entity divided into a few conservatives but dominated by good ol' boy liberal-lite RINO's who are spineless in facing down their Lefty opponents. The RNC must be rid of the RINO dominance or nothing will change. At this point that's all that matters. It's Grrr! = get rid of the rino's!

  • muhammad

    you can lie and lie but yourself firstly ,so search the truth without effects of fancy.
    we respect all prophets and you must know that Ibraham not Jewish or Christian man but he worshiped one god.
    my brothers(sons of Isra'el) ; please don't distort the facts about Islam ,just search the roots deeply.

  • Eisa

    Why Muslims protected Jewish people in their lands

  • scherado

    "…Huckabee, Sarah Palin — fall short of the adequate support needed to defeat Obama. …

    I've concluded that the anti-Palin vipers succeeded. S.Palin did not employ the proper tactics in her dealings with media. Of course, we have the luxury of hindsight in this regard.

    • Stephen_Brady

      The primaries, next year, will not be "winner takes all", like in 2008. They will award delegates to Presidential candidates proportionally to their vote. The Upside? It will keep certain candidates in the race, for a longer time. The Downside? It will turn the GOP primaries into a long, brutal, slugfest. Whoever emerges with the nomination will be bruised and bloody, ready for a media pounding using the statements of their primary opponents against them …

  • qsome

    everytime you turn around everything this president does is unprecedented and historical because he said so. the filtered news networks can't get enough of it. yet when the people speak up in numbers it doesn't matter. there certainly something historical going on and it is not what the president is doing, that's been done before by governments in history. it's the press turning their back on the American people. all these years we have stood by them and the idea of freedom of press just so they use their position against us. who ever thought we would see this to this extreme?

  • jgreene

    I believe that the Tea Parties and the American People must keep the new Republican Congress responsive to the Peoples' desires – small, responsible government, lower spending and REVERSAL of ObamaCare.

    • Stephen_Brady

      I've heard that HR.1 will be the repeal of Obamacare. Unfortunately, the RINO's at the top of the GOP didn't support the people who would have given control of the Senate to the Republican Party. Even if they had, Obama will veto any repeal of this abomination, and the votes just aren't there for override.

      I agree about keeping the GOP responsive to the people's will, and what that consists of. Symbolic, I know, but the Constitution wll be read in the House, on Wednesday …

  • WilliamJamesWard

    We need to get rid of the Obama crowd and elect patriotic, level
    headed and honest people into government positions and if we
    do not do it, well then we pay the piper. The MSM will go under
    and that will be no loss but Socialism leads to a loss of not just
    being a wealth creating Nation but of our freedom from government
    control. I do not want to live in a slave state as the European or a
    narco State like Mexico, what I see if we as conservative patriots
    fail in the next two years is a combination of all that is wrong with
    Europe and Mexico and discord not seen in America since the civil war………………………………………………….William

  • MollyBrand

    I attended the tax day rally in my city in April, 2009, town halls in the summer and fall of 2009, D.C. rally on 9/12, Bachman rally in November 2009 and march on the Capitol in spring 2010 to protest Obamacare. I am essentially unsophisticated in my knowledge of high finance and inside politics. I do have a college degree, a job and 5 kids and was a strong Clinton supporter. But after Obama used race to hijack the Democrat Party I woke up to what was happening. Even though I cannot get to my local tea party meetings all the time I am with them in spirit-and I think that is what the party stands for-the American spirit- the year after Obama took over my state voted in two tough constitutionalists as Governor and attorney general in direct repudiation of the Obama socialist agenda. So there is hope.

    If anyone wants to name an "enemy of the people" of the year award I think it should be the Mainstream Media-they will certainly rue the day they turned their back on the truth.