WHERE DID EVERYONE GO?It was supposed to be a three-day love feast to savor the Tea Party's mid-term election victories. But the Save America Convention at the Marriott-Waterside in Tampa earlier this month attracted only about 300 people, or about 12 Tea Partiers for each of the 25 speakers, who spoke glowingly of even greater future triumphs and laid out a few doomsday scenarios for good measure.
Meanwhile, a Tea Party Patriots meeting last week at a public library in Monroe County in northeastern Pennsylvania, a Tea Party hotbed, attracted barely enough people for two baseball teams.
Isolated incidents? Nah.
I not so boldly predicated in a day-after mid-term election analysis that the Tea Party may be a one- or two-election cycle wonder before being relegated to the political dust bin, and what has transpired in the last several months strengthens that conviction.
* Party members' overarching sense of grievance and self pity does not translate into being able to formulate policy, let alone govern.
* Its leaders act like the party now owns the Republican franchise, bad-mouthing not only Democrats but also fellow Republicans who have refused to do their bidding.
* Politics built on ignorance and practiced without compromise isn't politics, it's something between anarchy and mob rule.
* As with any upstart political movement, the spontaneous nature of the party is ebbing and its values are becoming co-opted.
* Its candidates wreak havoc on non-Tea Party candidates such as those down-ticket from Sharon Angle in Nevada, Christine O'Donnell in Delaware and Joe Miller in Alaska.
The Tea Party emerges at a seminal time in the history of the once great Republican Party, which while long having a pro-business slant welcomed a diversity of views. Because, by golly, not all conservatives thought alike.
But in an era of purity tests and loyalty oaths, the party has evolved a pretzel logic whereby only social conservatives with the mandatory chops on abortion, homosexuality, assault weapons and immigrants can get nominated, but once nominated have to downplay their social extremism for fear of scaring away the independents they need to get elected. (When was the last time that a leading Republican made abortion the centerpiece of their platform)
While the Tea Party is not necessarily a bad fit in this regard, establishment Republicans (we know that you're out there somewhere) understand that while the Tea Party won it some congressional seats and a statehouse or two in 2010, it will only hasten the party's slouch toward national irrelevance in the long run.
Look no further than Michele Bachmann to understand why.
The wingnut from Minnesota is likely to be the Tea Party's standard bearer through the early 2012 primaries, stealing attention from serious candidates with her attention-grabbing obfuscations and conspiracy theories.
When Bachmann brands Democrats as being anti-American, Obama an Islamofascist socialist and that the Serve America Act will lead to reeducation camps many of us roll our eyes, but it is talk like this that makes her so popular with the loony toon brigade in the sort of all-important Iowa primary if unpalatable to voters at large.