The Tea Party. The tea party movement. The Tea Party wing of the Republican party. (More)

An astroturf organization founded by FreedomWorks in 2009 to attempt to slow down health care reform, the tea party became an electoral force in the 2010 mid-term elections.

There are a number of groups that label themselves ‘Tea Party’: Tea Party Patriots, Americans For Prosperity, FreedomWorks, Tea Party Express, Tea Party Nation, The National Tea Party Federation, The Nationwide Tea Party Coalition.

The tea partiers fancy themselves patriots akin to the original Boston Tea Party participants. The movement is described as:

… an American populist political movement that is generally recognized as conservative and libertarian, and has sponsored protests and supported political candidates since 2009. It endorses reduced government spending, opposition to taxation in varying degrees, reduction of the national debt and federal budget deficit, and adherence to an originalist interpretation of the United States Constitution.

The power of the tea party to tilt the 2010 mid-term elections towards the Republicans was real but some wonder about their waning influence as evidenced by a decline in the number of events:

… while an average of 337 Tea Parties were held across the country each month of 2010, this year that number has dropped to just 166 events per month and continues to decline.

Harry Reid believes that the tea party will decline as the economy gets better, a point echoed by liberal commentators:

The environment that allowed the special interests to manipulate the emotions of the Americans who identify with the Tea Party was caused by the economy. As the economy gets better, the fear and anger subsides and messages like that of the Tea Party become less appealing. In good economic times messages of fear and anger fall on deaf ears, and this is the likely fate of the Tea Party

The polls suggest that the tea party ideas are not very popular and the tea parties themselves are even less popular. A recent Utah poll showed their approval dropping in that blood-red state:

The poll, which was posted online at www.utahdatapoints.com showed among all voters, less than half, 46 percent, had a favorable view of the tea party in April 2011, compared to 53 percent in November 2010.

The percentage of respondents identifying themselves as active tea party supporters dropped from 22 percent in November 2010 to 20 percent in April 2011.

Among independent voters[…] support for the tea party has dropped from 49 percent in November 2010 to 24 percent in April 2011.

The latest polling shows this downward trend:

Gallup began tracking Americans’ views of the Tea Party in March 2010, when 37% had a favorable and 40% an unfavorable view. Those views stayed roughly the same through January of this year, but have now turned somewhat more negative. The April 20-23 USA Today/Gallup poll finds favorable opinions of the Tea Party movement dropping to 33%, from 39% in January, and unfavorable opinions rising to 47% from 42%. Twenty percent of Americans say they haven’t heard of the Tea Party or have no opinion of it.

The tea party ideology is being tied to the failure of the House of Representatives to raise the statutory debt limit and headlines like Boehner backed into corner by tea party are finding their way into the mainstream with this commentary:

“(Polls show) that more people right now trust President Obama than the House Republicans on both the issue of the debt and the deficit,” said Ron Brownstein, CNN senior political analyst and editorial director at The National Journal.

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Is the tea party phenomenon a movement or a flash in the pan?

Is the tea party’s influence waning or is the simple lack of elections driving the lack of interest in their events?

Can a movement created by corporate lobbyists continue to find enough ground troops to be an ongoing political force?

Is it wishful thinking to hope that the tea party met it’s Waterloo when it confronted Realworldia?

Will the Republican party pin the blame for the debt ceiling crisis on the tea party and flush them away or are the two inexorably tied together now?

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