The Tea Party: Wha’Happen?

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Scott Keyes crunches numbers:

For Tea Party Patriots, fewer than half the number of Tea Party events took place in the first seven months of 2011 compared to the same time period in 2010. Furthermore, 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.

This study only looked at events organized by Americans for Prosperity or Tea Party Patriots and their affiliates — other Tea Party groups’ event numbers were not readily available. The two groups, however, serve as complimentary proxies for the overall movement. TPP is the largest and most organized of all Tea Party groups, boasting over 1,000 local chapters, while AFP represents the more top-down corporate-directed segment of the Tea Party. Together, the two groups are a good barometer of morale and enthusiasm among the Tea Party rank-and-file.

We found a similarly steep decline among Tea Party events held by Americans for Prosperity as well. The number of events held in the first seven months of 2011 dropped off by more than one-third compared to the same time period in 2010.

I’m inclined to say that this doesn’t mean much. The Tea Party won in November 2010. It turned its attention to winning what it could in Congress. FreedomWorks and AFP do far more melt-the-phones style activism than rally-organizing. A lot of Tea Party activism was localized, and it’s incredibly successful at that level – look at the work the Tea Party is doing to prevent health care exchanges from being born in the states.

But the Tea Party is losing something by not getting out there in the streets. The debt ceiling debate started with the Tea Party in the driver’s seat, Americans unwilling to raise the debt limit. So did the CR debate. Over time, voters moved away from the conservative posiion as they panicked about the consequences. The people talking down the consequences aren’t activists, whom voters generally like. They’re members of Congress, whom voters don’t like. That’s a loss.