Party’s Over

Some pretty big cracks are erupting in the tea party movement.  As it turns out, unhinged anger is not a sufficient basis for a political movement:

[T]here are fractures in the movement that threaten its future. And if history’s any guide, such movements tend to flame out.


[T]he movement is well funded. Action groups like FreedomWorks — chaired by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey — helped organize and fund its April 15 rally in Washington.

Other groups, including Americans for Prosperity, Tea Party Nation and Tea Party Patriots, are also vying for the helm of the movement, and it’s creating what some are calling “competitive chaos.”

Some Tea Partiers have voiced anger and concern over whether the powerful groups are “astroturfing” what is supposed to be a grass-roots coalition — the idea that the movement is being organized by old-fashioned GOP bigwigs to promote their agenda.


At rallies over the summer and fall, crowds carried signs portraying Obama as Hitler and likening his policies to those of Nazi Germany. In one case, heavy criticism forced a Tea Party group in Danville, Virginia, to cancel a bonfire in which an effigy of Pelosi was to be burned.

And there’s the threat that fringe members will taint the public’s perception of the movement.

[Emphasis mine]

First, I  don’t think they have to worry about that last part–the tea partiers are pretty much all fringe anyway.

Second, now they’re worried about astroturfing? The whole movement was founded on astroturf; well-funded right-wing interests built it from the ground up. They paid for the buses, got the permits, bought the Gadsden flags, wrote the talking points, etc.

Heck, that’s one of reasons for the crackup–well-funded right-wing interests whipped conservatives into a frenzy, but now they can’t control them. The tea partiers don’t want the conservative establishment to lead them around by the nose anymore, but they have no idea how to do this on their own.

Third, this is what happens when you build an entire political movement around anger. Rage is not a strategy–for a political movement to succeed, it actually has to stand for something.

And that’s another reason for the crackup–the tea partiers oppose Obama’s agenda but have no actual policies of their own. Now that they have to figure out what they stand for, instead of just what they oppose, none of them can come to an agreement.

So, it looks like the tea party’s over. They’re no longer a unified right-wing front against the Obama administration and its policies, and I expect things to become more contentious and fractured come the 2010 campaign, when everyone starts looking for their piece of the pie.