2010 was unquestionably the year of the Tea Party. Begun in 2009, and drawing from the Ron Paul campaign of 2007-8, the movement went from nothing to rocking Washington in a short time. The conservative movement and Republican party, pronounced dead by some in the wake of the 2008 election are back and in some ways, stronger then ever.
The Tea Party is what conservatives have always needed--a genuine grassroots movement. The movement is leaderless and so cannot be easily corrupted.
Even before winning elections, the Tea Party had a significant impact in Washington. They made democrats pay dearly for passing Obamacare and are keeping up the pressure for repeal. They made cap-and-trade and card check dead in the water. They defeated the omnibus spending bill and the DREAM act.
Unlike previous conservative movements, the Tea Party does not view voting Republican as The Answer. Thus they mounted primary challenges to a slew of unconservative Republicans and defeated Bob Bennett at a convention, Lisa Murkowski in a primary (though not the general), and Bob Inglis in a primary. Arlen Specter and Charlie Crist fled the party rather than face challenges, and both lost. Moderate Mike Castle was denied a Senate nomination. These and a slew of other unsuccessful primary challenges made it clear that congressional Republicans had better shape up or ship out, and that 'the lesser of two evils' was not good enough. Thus even unsuccessful candidates like Christine O'Donnell served a useful purpose. And to think that an early liberal lie about the Tea Party was that it was an AstroTurf creation of the Republican establishment.
The Tea Party is now busy trying to rest control of the Republican party from the establishment.
To achieve its victories, the Tea Party had to overcome one of the most vicious smear campaigns in politics. The biggest lie of course was that they are RAAACIST! depsite a shred of evidence to support this. They didn't let the lies show them down, and in November elected Allen West, Tim Scott, Marco Rubio, Brian Sandoval, Nikki Haley, and a half-dozen Hispanic Republican congressmen.
No one person represents the whole movement, of course. But a strong case can be made for Senator Jim DeMint as the predominant Tea Partier in Washington. DeMint has a long track record of fighting for conservative causes. This often means opposing his own party, as when he fought against the prescription drug bill in 2003 and amnesty in 2006 and 2007. This year, he led the fight against government spending in the Senate, sponsored Ron Paul's audit the Fed bill, and held up a slew of bad legislation.
Having earned the respect of the grassroots, he helped to elect Tea Party candidates in November. He gave early endorsements to Pat Toomey and Marco Rubio. He offered support to Rand Paul and Mike Lee. He used his PAC to send them financial support helped them to raise more on their own. Next year, he will have more staunchly conservative allies in the Senate.
For these reasons, Senator Jim DeMint is The Western Right's conservative of the year.
Honorable mentions: Glenn Beck, Ron Paul, Sarah Palin, Russell Pearce, Sam Alito, Jeff Sessions
Previous winners (including retroactive):
2009: Glenn Beck
2008: Sarah Palin
2007: Ron Paul
2006: Jerome Corsi
2005: Tom Tancredo
2004: John O'Neill
2003: Roy Moore
2002: John Ashcroft
2001: George W. Bush
2000: William Rehnquist