The Tea Party lacks the passion it had in 2010, said presidential candidate Newt Gingrich on CNN’s “State of the Union” this past weekend.
Show host Candy Crowley pressed the former speaker for his opinion on whether the Tea Party has faded during this election year.
“I think the Tea Parties have added a lot, and I think you’ll see in certain races, that they’re still very, very important,” Gingrich said. “… They don’t have the passion they had in 2010, partially I think out of frustration with having won the House and not seeing the scale of change they want.”
Polls show the former speaker is correct on that point. Most of the people who initially signed up with Tea Party groups across the country never actively participated, and many Tea Party groups now struggle to expand membership and get their message out.
As a movement, the Tea Party never quite gelled. Almost from the beginning, local factional issues and a general bull-headed independence kept Tea Parties from joining forces and instead opened the way for Republicans and other less scrupulous groups to invade the power structure.
Very quickly, there was the Tea Party Express, which was founded as a GOP bus tour promoting the party.
The state of Florida saw the Tea Party splinter into several competing groups, all with similar names but sometimes vastly different goals.
Then there was the Tea Party Nation Corp., founded by a Tennessee assistant district attorney to promote conservative issues including gun rights and illegal immigration. It also sponsored the 2010 National Tea Party Convention.
The largest group to form, and the truest to the original Tea Party values of lower taxes and constitutional government, was the Tea Party Patriots, a national organization that trademarked the name and tried to bring some sort of structure to the many diverse Tea Party groups.
But the Tea Party Patriots leadership has fractured in the past year. Founder Mark Meckler resigned over the increased influence of the GOP on the group. Other leaders resigned under pressure during the Republicans’ quiet coup, leading to schisms between the national organization and large state groups such as California.
The wounds are not entirely self-inflicted. Since the beginning, the Tea Party has been under dual attack from the Left and from the Republican leadership, both of which want more than anything to keep real conservatives out of power.
Both campaigns have had the desired effect.
As the most important election in modern times approaches, the Tea Party, the one movement that had an interest in turning the country back toward constitutional law and free-market principles, is playing injured if not downright crippled.