Saturday, January 23, 2010

Is The Tea Party Over?

Attempts to organize an upcoming National Tea Party Convention—with Sarah Palin as keynote speaker—have led to threats of lawsuits and counterconventions across the country. Erick Erickson, one of the conservative movement's most prominent bloggers, dismissed the event as a money-making scam. Even the stunning election of a Republican to Teddy Kennedy's seat only seemed to create deeper divisions in an already fractious movement. The man who serves both as the tea party's spiritual leader and carnival barker, Glenn Beck, spent the morning after Scott Brown's victory sounding very much like a man who would just as soon undermine the party as he would share the spotlight with Washington's newest star. The Fox News host used his TV and radio shows to launch vicious verbal attacks on the newly elected senator. "I want a chastity belt on this man," Beck laughingly said the morning after Brown's epic victory over Democrat Martha Coakley. "I want his every move watched in Washington. I don't trust this guy. This one could end with a dead intern." Just in case the audience had somehow missed his suggestion that Brown was capable of having an affair with, and then murdering, a female intern, Beck repeated the line. What is going on here? Why are the tea partyers turning on their own? Like any nascent populist movement, the tea party was born of deep skepticism and dissatisfaction with the status quo. As it turns out, many of its most passionate and vocal members seem just as mistrusting of each other as they are of the federal government. This is one reason we have been stuck with two dominant political parties for so long: creating durable political institutions is more

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