Those on the receiving end of the tea party movement this election cycle are hopeful it is but a fleeting temper tantrum.
However, as President Obama learned, hope may be a campaign slogan but it is not a strategy.
In fact, there are at least four reasons why the tea party movement will have a positive, lasting and transformative impact on our politics.
First, the tea party has accomplished something the Republican Party has always struggled to do which is to unite social and economic conservatives around common enemies and a common agenda.
Second, the tea party has human infrastructure that rivals the two major parties. Until recently the ability to deploy thousands of precinct workers into a particular state or district was the exclusive province of the public sector unions. No more. The tea party has demonstrated it can match up man-to-man.
Third, the tea party has changed the conversation by focusing on policy over pedigree or personality. Nowhere was this more clearly demonstrated than in Delaware. It was perhaps the most extreme case of voters sending the message that what matters is someone who will vote their interests. If that means choosing someone with a spotty employment record who has behaved erratically over someone with all the right credentials and all the right connections, well, so be it.
And tea partiers will hasten to remind navel-gazing elites who scoff at Christine O'Donnell that we have a president who once claimed to have visited all 57 states and a Congress that contains the likes of Georgia Rep. Hank Johnson who worried that overpopulation was going to cause the island of Guam to literally capsize.
Fourth, the tea party understands that elections are the means to policy ends. They have cobbled together a policy-focused coalition built around a consistent application of the idea that government shouldn't be in the business of picking winners and losers-whether the beneficiaries are public sector unions, Wall Street banks, or Fortune 500 companies.
As long as they hold those they elect to the same standards as those they reject, the tea party movement is here to stay.