The large, heterogeneous, loosely-connected "Tea Party Movement(s)" span a spectrum of people with wide and disparate concerns. Some of them are indeed racists or radicals, warmongers and religious zealots. But it's a big tent and they've also got a lot of hard-working, reasonable people who share very legitimate concerns about the state of the country that are neither partisan nor unfounded. - The massive, unsustainable national debt. - The collusion between the largest business interests and government, including the numerous backroom "pay for play" deals that are a daily occurrence in Washington and most egregiously and monumentally exemplified by the bailout. - The revolving door between government and business where it's only not called "bribery" because they wait until officials are out of office to pay them handsomely for their favors, resulting in legislation like NAFTA that benefit the politically connected and see millions of American jobs lost. - The erosion of personal privacy and liberty and escalation of the Surveillance State. - The national security of a nation whose government has proven itself incompetent at minimizing the risk of terrorism. - That neither major party fields candidates who represent the voters or their best interests and seem pre-selected by the same entities that act in opposition to public desires. - The general sense that America is not in practice a very democratic country. That the people's interests are largely ignored by both houses of Congress and the Executive, and the people have ultimately relatively little say in what their government does. There are lots of whackjobs too, as noted. People who don't know what Marxism and Socialism and Fascism and Capitalism are. People who want to see a phantom birth certificate. Go to any major gathering of anti-war, or anti-IMF/World Bank/WTO demonstrators and you'll similarly find people who cling to Loose Change and "New World Order" Illuminati crap or racists who think "Jews run the world." Get enough people together, you'll have a loud section of idiots. Let's forget about them for a minute, because I think they're ultimately just a vocal minority. What I'm concerned with are the rest of the people. Those who for whatever reason have come to the realization that they should exercise far greater control over the direction of their country and are righteously pissed off that they don't. People can argue they should have woken up sooner when the same shit was being done by previous presidents and I understand that, but whatever. Whatever the catalyst, a lot of Americans have woken up, realized they don't like what they see, and decided to get engaged. That's democracy in action. So here's my question: who will capitalize on this large group of concerned citizens and voters? Fox News has co-opted a lot of the protests and protesters and Glenn Beck has emerged as some sort of leader to many of them. Okay, so some GOP interests are astroturfing and they'll be able to cynically manipulate some of these people to just vote Republican again. The National Republican Party hasn't represented conservatism or any of the values expressed by the sane contingent of tea partiers in at least 60 years, but propaganda and the hopeless false dichotomy of "you have to choose one of the major parties" will surely get a considerable amount of these voters. In the same sense that the Democratic party is able to siphon a lot of votes from people who consider themselves liberal but ultimately care more about defeating the GOP than they do about achieving progress as a nation and people and accept the opposite side of the same false dichotomy. So yeah, obviously, the GOP will be able to capitalize on the anger and dissatisfaction to some extent and trick a section of these people into voting for the same people whose policies they're opposed to. Let's forget them for a minute too. It's yet to be seen how many of these people will be fooled, but I'd like to remain optimistic that it's not most. Even if the big events are astroturfed at the organizational level, that doesn't mean most of the people attending aren't there with good intentions, earnestly and honestly concerned Americans. And with relatively little effort, those who haven't already blamed the mass of Washington as a whole as the problem, rather than just one party or president, could easily come to that realization. Will they? Will a significant portion of the tea party movement form a new political party? If so, will they run a genuine political outsider? Is there any candidate out there, big or small, who genuinely represents their interests and could win their support? Or are they too disparate, with too many different and competing interests and subgroups to coalesce into a cohesive whole? If no alternate party seems viable, will they simply not vote? That would also be a very impactful form of dissent, forcing a low voter turn out to demonstrate to the national parties they are not supported. With no mandate and low numbers, they could minimize the amount of power the President and Congress were able to claim and exercise, or at least demonstrate that Washington doesn't represent the American people. Do they have enough in common with Libertarians or disillusioned Progressives to join forces? Perhaps a new Populist Party...or maybe that makes the tent even bigger and more unmanageable. But I do think there's a lot of variety and competing interests within the Democratic and Republican Parties anyway, so we've seen an organization doesn't have to be lockstep to gain power. I don't know. I'm genuinely not sure how all this will play out but I think it's a very interesting contemporary phenomenon and I'm interested to hear what the rest of you think. Is this movement the foundation of a new third party, will they let themselves be absorbed by an existing party when they seem so fed up with the status quo, will they sit the election out or fill the house with unconnected independents? How much power do they really possess, is there any way to know just how many people can be grouped together as a part of this movement? What do you think? *I'll prepare myself for a deluge of "TL; DR"s, but to those with something to offer I'd appreciate thoughtful insight and hope this doesn't become another pissing match between the existing parties. If you consider yourself a member of the movement, I'm particularly interested to hear what your thoughts are and your experience has been so far in terms of getting organized and attempting to exert influence.