This weekend's Tea Party convention — designed to solidify the disjointed grassroots movement — came to a rousing conclusion with headline speaker Sarah Palin's prediction that a Tea Party "revolution" would soon sweep America. But after the dust settled, the future of the Party remains a point of contention among its own members. Yes, the "movement is growing up," says convention organizer Judson Phillips, but "if 2010 is another year of rallies, we've lost." Here, five theories on the Party's destiny:
1. The Tea Party will become a viable third party: "Pundits" who dismiss the Tea Party as disjointed and "nihilistic," says Glenn Reynolds in the Washington Examiner, are deluded. Tea Party members are already devising a winning "big tent" platform based on fiscal conservatism. Armed with this highly popular ideal, the movement could steal support from across the political spectrum. Any politicians who dismiss this threat "are likely to find themselves out of a job."
2. The Tea Party will become a support base for the Republicans: Forget the third-party concept. In a development many tea party members endorse, the movement could simply be "absorbed" by the Republican party, says Jay Newton-Small in Time. Splitting conservatives into two competing political factions, says outspoken Tea Partier Andrew Breitbard, would be "exactly what the Daily Kos wants us to do and we'd just be playing into liberal hands." The Tea Party won't be going off on its own anytime soon.
3. The movement will simply lose relevancy: The Tea Party's "15 minutes" are nearly up, says Jonathan Kay in Frum Forum. "Populist movements build up critical mass only during periods of crisis" – and the current financial crisis is "already…easing." Furthermore, the movement still lacks a viable leader. Without "the discipline imposed by a traditional, top-down political organization," the Tea Party will devolve into a bunch of "bickering" factions.
4. The movement will live on…as a PAC: The party is clearly focused when it comes to fund-raising, generating $285,000 for Scott Brown's race in Massachusetts" — and a new PAC within its fund-raising wing is poised to elect "Tea-Party-style" candidates in as many as 20 national races this November, says Patrik Jonsson in Christian Science Monitor. Turning rebellion into cash may be the movement's true destiny.
5. The movement is already dead: "The tea party movement is dead" — and Sarah Palin killed it, says conservative blogger Kleinheider in NashvillePost.com. Rather than celebrating the "organic nature" of the movement, Palin simply pushed the neoconservatism of George W. Bush on the conventioneers, thus hijacking the Party for her own political ambitions — namely, running for president as a Republican.
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