Much ink has been spilled over the past year on the nascent Tea Party -- who its members are, what its political agenda is, the impact it is having on the body politic as a whole, and so on and so forth. The answers to those questions are somewhat fuzzy, but what is known is that despite the anti-incumbent fervor that the Tea Party has helped stoke, roughly 95 percent of all incumbents are expected to be re-elected to Congress in November.
Yes, 95 percent.
Where the Tea Party is having an impact is in accelerating the destruction of the Republican Party. That may seem like a ridiculous statement given that the GOP expects to make substantial gains in November in both the Senate and House and even take back control of the lower chamber. That may or may not happen, but the fact remains that the party cannot begin to recover nationally, let alone grow, by subsuming electoral appeal to raw ideology. In others, putting fringe ideas first, party second and America third.
Look no further than Connecticut, Kentucky and Nevada to see this . . . uh, dynamic at work. In all three states, ideologically "pure" Tea Party darlings have thumbed their noses at the national party's preferred candidates:
* Linda McMahon, a somewhat crazy and very wealthy woman whose only qualification is having presided over a pro wrestling empire, who has a fighting chance of winning the Connecticut senatorial primary but not the general election.
* Rand Paul, a crazier version of his wacky father, Ron, whose oddball ideas and paranoia about non-existent highways and monetary systems may end up costing the party one of its two previously safe senate seats in Kentucky.
* Sharron Angel, a certifiably crazy woman whose defeat of the party favorite in the Nevada primary has resuscitated Harry Reid, who figured to be road kill but now stands a good chance of returning to Washington.
Then there is Marco Rubio in Florida, who was looking forward to having his cake and eating it too until Charlie Crist, banished from the temple by Tea Partiers because he was not pure enough, decided to run for the Senate as an independent. It is not beyond the realm of possibilities that he can win.
So there you have it. Four states, three of which were in all likelihood sending Republicans to the Senate but quite possibly are going to send none.
The Republican Party as led by Goldwater, Nixon, Reagan and Bushes père et frère is becoming shriller, smaller, more regional and even whiter at a time when the national voter demographic is moderate and increasingly brown and black.
Photograph by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images