Kentucky is not normally a state that is seen as a bellwether to the national political mood. Comfortably in the "Red," the Bluegrass State often passes through the electoral season with very little national fanfare. That has changed.
For the first time since its rapid evolvement, the tea party movement helped a significant political candidate earn electoral victory — marking a notable increase in the movement's importance to candidates across the country. No longer can anyone call this a fluke.
Now many will be quick to say that this is simply a result of the normal enthusiasm gap that comes into play when one party has been swept into power. And others will say that this new group symbolizes a modern shift into a third wing of American electoral politics. I disagree with both.
You see, what the tea party movement stands for is nothing new to those of us who remember the days of the Grand Old Party remaining true to its core principles — a Republican Party that believed that uttering anything related to "increased government spending" was akin to dropping a four-letter curse word.
What the tea party followers are demanding is simply a return to the days of old — the days where Republican leaders like my father stood for smaller government, less spending, and the implementation of policies that allow the American economy to grow, rather than punishing families and small businesses for being productive.
Today, if you visit any state Republican convention or any other gathering of Republicans, you will see a wide array of conservative organizations using my father's likeness to promote their cause. From the issue of life to immigration, they claim the Reagan mantra.
However, when it comes to the tea party, these folks are actually out there demanding a return to the real Reagan principles. They are demanding that our government return more power to the people.
I can assure you that my father would not only have approved of their efforts, he would be standing by them as they help return our nation to one by the people, for the people, of the people.
What's more, the tea party has now proven that they can not only talk a good game, but they can actually put solid, principled Republicans in office. This should serve to send a strong message to Republican leadership that the tea party can be an ally in electing the best candidates, rather than a political rapid to be navigated.
And as we look toward the coming general elections, tea party organizers must remember that the resources and support of the Republican Party can work on their behalf as well. We are strongest when we are working together.
The Kentucky win was historic for the tea party movement. But we must not stop now. It's time to hold candidates and office-holders accountable when it comes to spending, the deficit, and the tax burden being placed on our families.
By pushing hard on this front, in a couple of years, we will be able to stand up and ask President Obama just how he takes his tea.
Mike Reagan, the elder son of the late President Ronald Reagan, is spokesman for The Reagan PAC and chairman and president of The Reagan Legacy Foundation.
© Mike Reagan