Tea Partiers crash the party

Fall has officially begun, and the Tea Party has proven it’s here to stay, winning big victories in last week’s primaries.

That is, if we can decide exactly what the Tea Party is, points out the New Republic’s Jonathan Cohn.  Is it a decentralized, grass-roots organization, comparable to liberal and leftist groups like Moveon.org or even Students for a Democratic Society?  This is, of course, liberals’ worst nightmare: that a legitimate, popular right-wing uprising is taking place.  Jonathan Rouch’s recent piece in the National Journal does nothing to assuage those fears.

Or is the Tea Party just a mobilization of the conservative wing of the Republican Party, nothing more than a collection of astroturf groups funded by the Koch Brothers and their ilk?

An interesting development – according to Joe Conason, fear of Islam – the latest culture war issue – has made for a common cause between the Tea Party and the religious right, who bonded at the recent Values Voter Summit.  So much for the notion of a right-wing movement that is only concerned with economics.

The always-sober political handicapper extraordinaire, Nate Silver of Five Thirty-Eight offers his own analysis:

In some ways, the Tea Party represents an end-around for Republicans -– it may help to facilitate large electoral gains for them in November in spite of a party brand which is badly damaged. Although it may have done harm to Republicans in a few specific races, like Delaware, this may be outweighed by the good it has done them elsewhere in the country.

But there is one fundamental Republican problem that the Tea Party has not resolved: the brand remains extremely unpopular among large segments of the public. In fact, the Tea Party is in some ways a reaction to this: particularly after Delaware, we should probably take the Tea Party at its word that stands in opposition to the Republican and Democratic establishments alike.

Finally, the Obama camp seems convinced that they’re for real — and may attack them in campaign ads.

What do you think?

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