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'Tea party' is rejuvenating American politics

Thanks to the tea party, Washington politicians are paying closer attention to voters – even those who don't support the tea party.

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The "tea party" movement has a lot more going for it than a rightward shift in electoral preferences. It's restoring competition to congressional seats long dominated by incumbents. It's forcing the public to confront the toll of the Democratic Party's alliance with public-sector unions on America's fiscal health. And, for a conservative in Massachusetts like me, it means elected officials and candidates will take my views more seriously.

Despite Congress's abysmal 21 percent approval rating and the miracle election of Republican Sen. Scott Brown earlier this year, I harbor no illusions that Massachusetts will remain anything but cobalt blue. Still, the mere fact that the Bay State's liberal representatives in Washington now have to compete for votes is positive.

The yeasty mix of issues and ideas sprinkled by the tea party leavens the political loaf for everyone. More people who feel electorally challenged are campaigning, voting, and participating in the democratic process than otherwise would. President Obama's 2008 run did the same for black and young voters in every state. He not only provided the motivation to vote, but a chance to win – a crucial distinction for those used to voting in vain.

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