US Senator Ted Cruz stood before hundreds of conservatives and with a pointed jab proclaimed that the small-government movement which sent him to Washington last year is alive and kicking. “I’m a little bit confused,” he said, the edges of his mouth…
The Tea Party at Five: What the Wacko Birds Have Wrought
On the fifth anniversary of the first Tea Party rallies, the movement’s record appears mixed. It swept the GOP to a majority in the U.S. House, where it has blocked President Barack Obama’s most radical ambitions. It helped the GOP win several governorships, launching reforms that broke the unions’ political stranglehold. At the same time, weak Tea Party candidates cost the GOP the Senate, and aggressive legislative tactics cost it support.
The debate for and against the Tea Party obscures the movement’s larger achievement, which is that it reinvigorated a sense of opposition in American politics. Opposition is a natural force in all political systems, to some extent, as Alexis de Tocqueville observed in Democracy in America. Yet it does not have the same formal role in the American system as it does elsewhere, and it has been especially weak–both left and right–in recent years.
The great paradox of the Tea Party is that despite the fact that it currently enjoys the approval of only a minority of Americans, the principles for which it stands are shared by a broad majority. The Tea Party stands for greater freedom and less government, and its flaws all arise from the fact that it has pursued those goals with a far too idealistic expectation that the political system could be restored to those values given enough energy and effort.