Is The Tea Party A Force For Good?

As we approach the first election with national implications since the rise of the Tea Party movement, it is a good time to gauge their impact on national political scene. Is this groundswell of activism good for the country, or is it contributing to an increasingly toxic political environment?
It doesn’t seem fair to answer this question without looking at political life pre-Tea Party. Alexis de Tocqueville said that democracies get the government that they deserve. In the 2004 Presidential Election, 4 out of 10 eligible voters sat it out, declaring that they didn’t give a damn about what kind of government we get. In spite of the historic election of our first African-American president in 2008, the overall participation rate barely moved. Whatever your political stripe, can anyone argue that the status quo has been good for America?
So what are the Tea Parties, and how did they come about? It’s important to realize there is no “Tea Party” per se. It is a collection of organizations, sometimes working in concert, sometimes not, that have formed across the country as a response to a federal government growing increasingly detached from the people that they have been charged with serving. Rick Santelli’s rant in February of 2009 gave a name to an independent movement that began earlier that month in Seattle, with an on-the-fly protest against the Stimulus Act. By the end of the month, rallies were being held in Colorado, Arizona, Kansas, Illinois, and Washington.
Is such a decentralized movement sometimes disorganized? Absolutely. Have mistakes been made? Absolutely. It is also, however, developing the ability to self-police. For example, The Tea Party Express and Mark Williams were expelled from the national Tea Party Federation over a racist blog post. Infiltrators set on embarrassing the movement with racist protest signs have been asked to leave events.
Is it a movement beset with racist? Absolutely not. As much as mainstream media outlets would like you to believe, it not a racist movement. Did MSNBC crop images of a gun-toting protestor at an event to suggest that it was a militant white, when it was actually a black protestor? Yes. Did you see the press conference held at the National Press Club by minority Tea Party activists to fire back at the misleading reporting on your nightly news? Didn’t think so.
Is the Tea Party movement a Republican front group? Absolutely not. They haven’t hesitated to criticize both parties for supporting ineffective, bloated government spending. As much as the Republican establishment would like to co-opt the Tea Party movement, the movement has resisted. It is a small government movement at heart, calling on both parties to become more responsive to the people they represent.
Democracy is messy. When voters aren’t holding politicians of both parties accountable, we get ineffective government that pleases no one. This only promotes division. The Tea Party movement is a symbol of Americans beginning to hold politicians accountable for their actions. Can that be bad? What do you think?