Who are the names that come to mind when you think about leaders of the Tea Party movement? Maybe Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Jim DeMint, Ron Paul and Michele Bachmann? Those were the most popular leaders listed by self-identified Tea Party activists in a 2010 Washington Post poll, at the height of the movement. You could add to that list a handful of other congressmen, especially outspoken Reps. Steve King, Allen West and Joe Walsh, among others.
And then you’d realize that every single one of them either lost their job or abandoned being a voice of the movement.
The 2012 election was devastating for the outspoken leaders in Congress. Allen West lost after a protracted battle, Joe Walsh was trounced by rising star Tammy Duckworth, and Ron Paul retired. Other, lesser-known members like Roscoe Barlett also lost. The two House Tea Party Caucus members who ran for the Senate last year both lost — Reps. Denny Rehberg in Montana and Todd Akin in Missouri.
Meanwhile Jim DeMint, the most prominent Tea Party leader in the Senate, who funded primary challenges against more moderate Republicans, left the Senate a month after the election to head the Heritage Foundation.
As for Bachmann, the founder of the Tea Party Caucus, she’s gone almost completely silent, as MinnPost noted last week. Since the November election, she hasn’t done any national television, has appeared on the radio only once, and has ducked most interview requests. Instead, those close to her say she’s focusing on the quotidian work of a legislator — advancing bills and helping constituents — instead of the more exciting work of being a national movement leader and media star.
The same is true for Rep. Steve King, who has rarely been heard from since November, when he got a run for his money from Democrat Christie Vilsack. Perhaps a bit chastened, or perhaps in anticipation of a rumored upcoming Senate bid, King has laid low and spoken out mostly to soften his hard-right image.
King has always staked out the far-right flank of the the party on immigration, so it was shocking to hear him say in January that he supports most of the comprehensive immigration reform bill emerging in the Senate. It seems to be indicative of a concerted effort to moderate his image.
Then there’s Sarah Palin, whose long decline into irrelevance got a big kick from behind when Fox News dropped her in January.
It’s a similar story for Glenn Beck, who, despite his success on the Dish Network, has nowhere close to the following he had during his Fox News days. And he’s moved away from the partisan red meat that made him famous, rebranding himself as a nonpartisan libertarian with a big emphasis on faith and religion.
Essentially all of these people who once trumpeted the Tea Party movement at the top of their lungs, have lost their jobs, lost their credibility, and in the case of Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck, essentially lost their minds. With Palin now fanning conspiracy theories about government buying bullets to exterminate citizens and Beck working on plans to build a 2 billion dollar tree fort in the woods, the only people REALLY listening to them are those measuring them for straitjackets.
Today the ONLY real prominent Teabagger still making the news is Ted Cruz, whose vicious tactics in the Chuck Hagel confirmation hearing and elsewhere, have earned him comparisons to Joe McCarthy. If that sticks, and the Tea Party becomes inextricably tied to McCarthyism, the Tea Party is not only doomed but they will serve as an object lesson for the dangers of allowing the fringe a place at the political table for decades to come.
Personally I don't think this Koch brother backed Astro-turf party can end too soon. Already their damage to the ability of policy makers in Washington to do their jobs has been extensive and threatens the very stability of our nation.