Editor’s note: Julian Zelizer is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. He is the author of “Jimmy Carter” and of the new book “Governing America.”
Princeton, New Jersey (CNN) – Back in 2010, the conservative columnist and CNN contributor David Frum was worried about what he saw in his own party. Frum, who had worked as a speechwriter for President George W. Bush, feared that Republicans would be tempted by tea party Republicans to shift far to the right to achieve short-term electoral gains that would cost the party in the long run.
“A party must champion the values of the voters it already has,”Frum wrote, then warning, “But it must also speak to the votes it still needs to win.”
For several years, the tea party helped energize a moribund Republican Party. After the 2008 election, with conservatives reeling from the dismal approval ratings of Bush and the defeat of John McCain, tea party activists injected some life into the Republican grass roots, bringing out voters in the primaries who were frustrated with the political status quo.
They pushed the GOP to focus more on the issue of deficit reduction and government spending, while creating immense pressure on the congressional leadership to avoid compromises. The midterm elections of 2010 put President Barack Obama on the defensive and constrained him for much of his first term.
CONTINUED at CNN.