On GPS (Jan 22nd episode), Fareed Zakaria asked “what happened to the Tea Party?” suggesting that it may have disappeared. While posing the question to his guests, “The end of the Tea Party?” appeared at the bottom of the television screen. His guest, David Frum, said that the “Tea Party failed to provide an alternative to Romney,” while his other guest, Steven Rattner, proclaimed that “the Tea Party lost its mojo.” Has the Tea Party run out of steam?
To answer this question, it is important to ask, “Whose Tea Party is it?” Theda Skocpol and Vanessa Williamson’s recent book on the Tea Party highlights the dynamic relationship between local grassroots Tea Partiers and the movement’s elite actors and organizations. The relationship is symbiotic, as Skocpol and Williamson discuss in their chapter titled “Mobilized Grassroots and Roving Billionaires.” The mobilization of discontent at the grassroots served as an opportunity for existing ultra-conservative elite organizations to advance their cause. At the same time, local Tea Party groups benefited from the resources of these organizations and the media attention they received. Nonetheless, there are tensions between grassroots activists and national organizations particularly since some local Tea Partiers are suspicious of larger national elite groups and worry about losing local autonomy. Continue reading