Former Newsweek editor Tina Brown commemorated the fifth anniversary of the Tea Party movement by tweeting Newsweek’s infamous Michele Bachmann cover (“Queen of Rage”), accompanied by this greeting:  “Happy Birthday, Wingnuts!”

Newsweek is all but dead, but the Tea Party still lives, an irony not lost on numerous people who have have commented mirthfully over at Twitchy. Still, Brown’s comment is valuable, capturing as it does so succinctly the snobbery the media and political elite directed at the Tea Party.

And yet…hated by the snobbish elite, harassed by the IRS, and lied about by political opponents, the Tea Party celebrated its fifth birthday in a party at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill that drew a thousand people, among them Senators Mike Lee, Rand Paul, and Ted Cruz.

No doubt like other Inkwell readers, I went to some early Tea Party events. The zeal for liberty, the niceness of the people, and the narrow focus of the movement (this was strictly a movement about fiscal responsibility and freedom) were impressive—and so at variance with the elite media's smearing Tea Party activists as racists.

Was the Tea Party really that important? Some people in high places obviously thought so because otherwise the IRS would not have tried to silence it during the 2012 presidential cycle. Unfortunately, the targeting appears to have worked—the Tea Party was less visible in 2012 than it was in 2010.  

Tea Party detractors point out that if the Tea Party hadn’t been behind some very bad candidates, the GOP might be much closer to control of the Senate. By the same token, the work of the Tea Party was essential in the GOP's gaining control of the House, which has been a bulwark against even more extreme legislation and spending than might have been the case.

It can’t be denied, however, that the Tea Party defeated several Republican candidates who had a far better chance at winning the general election than the Tea Party candidates who whipped them. Christine O’Donnell in New Jersey and Sharon Angle in Nevada come to mind. This trend seems to have ended, however. Tea Party backed primary candidates who would be at a disadvantage in the general election appear to be falling by the wayside this year. Republican voters seem to have learned from past losses and become more realistic.

Speaking only for myself, I believe that, despite infuriating missteps, the Tea Party has been a huge plus for conservatism. In its coverage of the birthday celebrations, the Washington Post snidely asked if there will be a tenth anniversary. Let’s hope so. The Tea Party is all about ideas.

John Fund believes that the Tea Party has a bright future and attributes this to the power of ideas:  

In politics it helps to be right, and most of the warnings tea-party advocates issued about the Obama administration have been validated by events.

Happy birthday, patriots!