To talk and think about the Tea Party, you have to know the state of the Republican Party in late 2008 and early 2009, when they were basically shut out of power at the Federal level, facing a new Democratic President with Barack Obama and a Democratic Congress, both House and Senate. To speak positively about the Tea Party for a minute, they were the energy that a badly damaged Republican Party, thanks to the Bush/Cheney Administration, needed to wake up and get back into the fight, not only with issues but also with rhetoric and an agenda to take on Obama Democrats.
To be real about it, we would probably be looking at not only a Democratic administration but probably also a Democratic Congress in both chambers right now, with Democrats still controlling a majority of governorships and legislatures, because the GOP was in debt. However, the corporate-funded Tea Party groups gave the GOP the resources that it needed to get back in the game politically and put many races that wouldn’t have been competitive otherwise in play for Republicans to not only take on Democratic incumbents but also to beat them and beat them handily.
The Super Bowl for the Tea Party was November 2010 election day, when the GOP won back the House of Representatives with 62 seats but didn’t win back the Senate because of their oddball Tea Party candidates, to put it lightly. It picked up six seats in the Senate, giving Senate Republicans, led by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a large minority to be able to obstruct the hell out of Senate Democrats and the Obama Administration and gave the Republican Party a majority of governorships and state legislatures.
That is really where the story ends positively for the Tea Party and the broader Republican Party because the Tea Party is not representative of America as a whole, coming primarily from the South and rural America and older Anglo-Protestant stock in a country that is diverse racially and ethnically and becoming more diverse every day, where many of these Americans see the Democratic Party as diverse and tolerant, unlike the GOP.
In 2012 the Tea Party was a negative factor and, if anything, held them down as badly as President George W. Bush held them down in 2006 and in 2008, even though the GOP was able to hold onto the House. President Obama was reelected in an Electoral College landslide and again because of the Tea Party and some of their oddball candidates (Todd Akin comes to mind) pretty quickly trying to run statewide in swing States, Senate Democrats not only held onto the Senate with vulnerable incumbents, but picked up two seats as well.
We still have the 2014 mid-terms, but we are already seeing establishment Republicans now not afraid to take on the GOP, like Governor Jan Brewer in Arizona or former Tea Party candidates like Governor Chris Christie in New Jersey. This suggests that the strength of the Tea Party peaked in 2010 and since the fall of 2011, they’ve been sliding, with 2012 almost a wasted election for the Republican Party, an election they should have won easily. We are seeing the adults in the Republican Party take over, charting a new course for the GOP.