Now, suddenly, the Tea Party is everybody's whipping boy.
Liberals, in the wake of the election, gloat about what they see as liberalism's return to the mainstream and good riddance to the end of the Republican "extremists."
And, despite the spin, which never stops in Washington, it is not accidental that four prominent Tea Party congressmen have been purged from key committee posts by House Speaker John Boehner.
So as the Washington "establishment" cozies up to the mindset that America will go on no matter what and that a bloated, debt-ridden America can go on just fine as long as there is political compromise in Washington, here are a few things to think about.
The Economist Intelligence Unit, a sister company of The Economist magazine, publishes each year a "quality of life" index. It ranks 50 countries around the world according to which has the best prospects for the highest quality of life in the upcoming year.
It looks at 11 factors, including economic (GDP per capita, GDP growth, inflation) and socio-political (life expectancy, literacy, human rights) considerations.
When the Index was first published in 1988, the United States was No. 1 in the world. This year, the United States has dropped to number 16.
Or consider the Economic Freedom of the World Index, published annually by a consortium of free-market think tanks from around the world.
According to this year's report: "The United States, long considered the standard bearer for economic freedom among large industrial nations, has experienced a substantial decline in economic freedom during the past decade. From 1980 to 2000, the United States was generally rated the third freest economy in the world, ranked behind only Hong Kong and Singapore."
In the latest rankings, the United States has dropped to number 19 in the world in economic freedom.
Why does this matter?
There is a direct correlation between how a nation ranks in economic freedom and its per capita GDP, income, and general measures of quality of life, such as life expectancy and civil liberties. More economic freedom means more prosperity and a higher quality of life.
According to data just published by the United Nations, in 2011 China surpassed, for the first time, the United States as the world's leading manufacturer.
Walter Isaacson relates, in his 2011 biography of the late founder of Apple Steve Jobs, how Jobs lectured President Barack Obama about how "regulations and unnecessary costs" in the United States drive firms to open plants in China.
We've got bad news and good news in our country today.
The bad news is that the country is unquestionably in decline.
The good news is that we remain sufficiently free to turn things around.
The compromisers tell us that we have no choice but to resign ourselves to a bloated, second-class America. They point out the obvious -- Obama won the election -- and conclude we should run up the white flag.
They also point to current polling that says the majority of Americans want compromise. Raise taxes, cut spending here and there and move on. Disappearing from the discussion is what is really needed -- real unilateral spending cuts, real tax reform and a real overhaul of entitlements.
We should conclude from this how deep-seated our problem is and how badly America needs courageous leadership.
If the founders of America, upstarts against the British Empire, caved in the face of early defeats, the American miracle would never have occurred.
Let's recall two of Benjamin Franklin's quotes:
"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
"We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately."
Tea Partiers must hang together, hang tough, and continue the winnable fight to restore American freedom.
(Star Parker is an author and president of CURE, Center for Urban Renewal and Education.)