UK Telegraph photoIn spite of being belittled, criticized, ridiculed or just ignored by big media, Americans actively engaged in the Tea Party activities of the past two years never gave up or gave in. They never budged from their determination to hold government accountable and restore the values of the nation’s founders. Look who’s paying attention now…

The New York Times, of all papers.

The Tea Party victories by Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida underscored the extent to which Republicans and Democrats alike may have underestimated the power of the Tea Party, a loosely-affiliated, at times ill-defined, coalition of grass-roots libertarians and disaffected Republicans.

Rather stunning lede, given the Times.

And given the times.

Republicans marched toward capturing control of the House of Representatives on Tuesday and expanding their voice in the Senate, riding a powerful wave of voter discontent as they dealt a setback to President Obama two years after his triumphal victory.

Democrats braced for significant losses, particularly in the House, where Republicans recorded a series of wins from New Hampshire to Virginia and Indiana to Florida, knocking out well-established incumbents and freshmen alike, all of whom struggled to overcome opposition to the Democratic Party’s agenda.

That was a gargantuan obstacle to overcome for most.

The strength of the Tea Party movement was validated by the victories of Rand Paul in Kentucky and Marco Rubio in Florida, both of whom began the year without the blessing of the Republican establishment in Washington.

“We’ve come to take our government back,” Mr. Paul told cheering supporters who gathered in Bowling Green, Ky. “They say that the U.S. Senate is the world’s most deliberative body. I’m going to ask them to deliberate on this: The American people are unhappy with what’s going on in Washington.”

And particularly, President Obama.

Uncharted territory. Historic upheaval. The tallies are not all in as this is written. But it seems that the 2010 elections have produced results that are unprecedented in the lifetimes of most readers.

Some numbers are clear. In nine of the 10 congressional election cycles between 1986 and 2004, no party gained or lost more than 10 seats in the House of Representatives, the one exception being 1994 when Republicans gained 54. Otherwise the numbers were pretty static.

Not so in the three most recent cycles. Democrats gained 31 seats in 2006 and another 23 seats in 2008. Now Republicans have won significantly more than the 39 seats they needed to regain the House majority they lost four years ago.

American politics has had not such sharp shifts to one party and then the other for more than half a century — not since the elections of 1946 and 1948 immediately after World War II. And then, as now, very fundamental issues about the size and scope of government were at stake.

And so…

On Tuesday, Americans gave their verdict on the Obama Democrats’ sharp increases in government spending and Obamacare. It was as resounding a “no” as their forebears delivered to the postwar Democrats’ welfare state vision in 1946.

As it turned into Wednesday, even Democrats were calling on the president to be conciliatory. He hasn’t so far listened to such advice. But then, the New York Times has not until now listened respectfully to the Tea Party.

This may not be the beginning of the end. But it’s certainly the end of the beginning. For one party, anyway.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....