The past, recent success and future of the Tea Party

Maybe after the success of the Tea Party in the midterm election, being a member won’t have such negative connotations.

Then again, after a brutal campaign, infighting among Republicans and an uncertain future after the elections, the Tea Party Movement might be dead in the water.

In 2008, things weren’t looking good for the Republican Party.

After eight years of fiscally irresponsible leadership from a “compassionate conservative,” the ideals of The GOP were lost in two unpopular wars and a “war on terror” that expanded the powers of the federal government to near 1984 levels.

As the campaigns of John McCain and  Barack Obama geared up, the GOP had done little to rebrand, offering one of their oldest members, while the Democrats put forth a freshman senator with no affiliation to previous administrations. The Republicans offered essentially more of the same with McCain, while the move on the part of the Democrats was ingenius: by nominating a relative unknown, they presented a candidate unassociated with the unpopular former president.

And so, with a galvanized democratic base, disheartened conservatives  and a young population of voters believing in “hope” and “change” in Washington, D.C., the nation swung to the left in hope of a brighter future.

Two years later, Washington has continued its reckless spending and expansion of government.

The 2010 midterm elections reflect the buyer’s remorse after two years of irresponsible growth of government.

While Democrats still control the Senate and the presidency, the victories among the Conservative and Tea Party candidates represent the first step for Americans toward shrinking the role of government.

Even though it was demonized in the media, the Tea Party movement succeeded in changing the political climate of the two-party system.

Instead of voting for the lesser of two evils, the call for fiscally conservative leaders offered a new option during primaries.

For once, conservatives could choose between the government-growing republicans that had turned record surplus into record deficit and a new crop of fiscal conservatives who call for cutting government spending.

These fresh faces gained popularity by attending Tea Party rallies and championing a solution to the problems of government.

The success of the Tea Party Movement is due in large part to a growing belief among Americans that the government has expanded beyond the control of the people.

The guiding philosophy of this push for small government derives from Thomas Jefferson’s advice: “Government big enough to supply everything you need is big enough to take everything you have. The course of history shows us that as a government grows, liberty decreases.”

This maxim has been proven true by both the Bush and Obama administrations with the use of wiretapping, full-body scanners in airports, massive government bailouts of private industry and the continued existence of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, all of which have expanded the role of government far beyond those outlined in the Constitution.

The Tea Party protests were the natural outgrowth of voter frustration, even if they have been portrayed by many in the media as GOP organized hate-rallies. They started in late 2007, when the first bank bailouts were being discussed by the Bush administration. They continued into the Obama administration, protesting massive government spending and feelings of underrepresentation.

It is a shame the rallies and attendants have been characterized as Islamiphobic, racist and homophobic, but it is the innate reaction for people on the outside of a movement to besmirch it in order to hide their own anxieties.

While it is hard to hear the President of all  the United States, not just the blue ones, refer to people in a political movement as “tea-baggers,” a clearly derogative term, I hope it serves as example that anyone can be caught up in xenophobia derived from a new movement in American politics.

With the addition of these Tea Party Conservatives in the House of Representatives, hopefully the media will make the effort to better understand the views of these elected officials. Hopefully even the President will show respect to this movement and the Americans supporting it.

But how the rest of the country thinks, or rethinks, the Tea Party will be almost entirely dependent on how the elected members represent their constituents.

A week after the election, it is hard to tell what success these new congressmen and women will have. With a majority in the House of Representatives, the republicans have two years to demonstrate their commitment to budget-cutting and government-shrinking. To many of the Americans who elected them, they are the defense against an ever-encroaching government.

If, after their promises to their districts, they proceed with spending as usual, the Tea Party will be a side-note of the gullible nature of the American people, right after the “hope” and “change” campaign of Obama.

But if the recently-elected congressmen and women stand by their pledge to curtail government spending, I believe this movement will be seen as a valiant effort to control the growth of the federal government.