In contrast, today’s Tea Party is having an “inside” effect. By acting through the Republican party, the Tea Party appears to be compounding its power. It has pursued election of its candidates through Republican primaries. In turn Republicans, to a large degree, appear to be supporting the Tea Party winners of those primaries.
The effect of the Tea Party has thus far been expressed in primary elections. These are much smaller fields than that it will play on next Tuesday. It is one thing to be a big fish in a small pond, quite another to be big in the big pond.
Can the Tea Party have as big an impact in a broader election? Something is unquestionably afoot in the electorate. The disparity between Republicans and Democrats in primary voting participation and enthusiasm levels, and the polls of many races nationwide, all evidence it. Are these the effect of the Tea Party, or is it merely the midterm doldrums that affect all Administrations?
The Tea Party has emerged as a major political story in less than two years. It is still to be determined if it will also be a major political force. Will it last beyond the midterm elections? Will it remain within the Republican party or, as its predecessors have, seek its own path?
The Tea Party embraces an iconoclastic agenda. Whether the agenda can win, much less be implemented, remains to be seen. However the Tea Party has already had an iconoclastic impact on third party politics. It has taken third parties from being spoilers to seeking to be kingmakers. It now only awaits a Tuesday coronation to lay formal claim to that title.