I asked readers if the Tea Party won or lost in the debt-ceiling debate. That set off one of the more robust Friday question debates we’ve had.

There were those who had nothing but contempt for the Tea Party movement. Zebra22 wrote: “They succeeded in proving that they are totally reckless and don’t belong in the political arena. I don’t call that winning. Your going to have to define winning.” (So they did win, but not in a way Zebra22 likes?)

Blackwell575 wasn’t handing out any bouquets either: “In my opinion the Tea-Party did not win anything other than making themselves look foolish. Get real an initial $900 billion dollars in spending cuts over 10 years, with an additional $1.2 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years most of the cuts back-loaded to 2013 and beyond. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a Social Democrat and am deeply concerned about any spending cuts to the Welfare State. However, this was definitely not a win for the Tea-Party. They put the country through a lot of stress and fear of default for virtually nothing.”

On a more positive note, reader Metanis saw it as a coming-of-age moment:

America won. Tea Parties are just a vehicle for what used to be called the Silent Majority. These people aren’t radicals but they want a more common sense approach to managing the people’s money. They aren’t monolithic. Some even would have supported minor tax hikes. These people had their voices heard. It’s hard to describe it as a “win”. Does a force of nature “win”? Just don’t expect they are going to fade back into the wallpaper anytime soon though.

David Holmes thinks it was a substantive win: “The core objectives were to (1) shift the discussion to debt limitation (and ultimately reduction) and cuts in entitlement/discretionary programs, (2) implement cuts and (3) avoid tax hikes at this time. Done - as well as could be reasonably expected, given that conservatives only control one half of one of the three branches of government. Further reductions and re-structuring of the tax code are next.”

I think RickCaird came closest to the mark: “Whether the Tea Party ‘won’ is immaterial. What they did do is change the conversation from the Obama budget with deficits as far as the eye could see to a debate over how to reduce the deficit. The results of the debt ceiling bill was more political theater than actual cuts. But, a lot of politicians are now on notice that cuts are both required and expected. The real battle will be joined in the 2012 elections. But, the S&P downgrade has helped the Tea party cause.”

RickCaird is right that the Tea Partyers helped to shift the entire discussion on debt and the economy to the right. And, in the end, those associated with the Tea Party in Congress generally were supportive of the final deal. But the Tea Party and GOP as a whole need to be careful that they operate strategically. The best deal that was obtainable was most likely the original Boehner plan (after the CBO adjustment); the final deal was less than ideal -- the result of Tea Party defiance that required a rewrite and a delay in passing the bill. We now potentially have some very scary defense cuts to deal with.

On the whole, however, the Tea Party got far more of what it wanted; the Democrats got practically nothing. In my book, that’s a win.