Newsweek has a piece on the coalition of disgruntled conservatives that have come to be called the Tea Party. Here’s the final paragraph:
The political volatility of the tea partiers also raises the question of how much staying power a movement based on “anti-incumbent, anti-Washington power” can have, particularly when such sentiments are so closely intertwined with the effects of the economic downturn. The current, near-unilateral opposition on the right to the Democrats’ legislative agenda has at least given focus and direction to the tea-party agitations, making alliances easier to come by. Compare such efforts to the current state of the grassroots left: having lost Bush as their primary target, liberal activists have oscillated between conducting pressure campaigns to pass Democratic bills and joining the right-wing opposition against the Democratic agenda when they feel it has fallen far short of the reforms they desire. Should the tea- party activists lose their own oppositional momentum—if the economy turns around, or if the Democrats quickly lose their grip in Washington—the absence of a more constructive platform and a stable infrastructure could mean that the insurgent network could evaporate as quickly as it came. “I don’t think you’re going to see a big third party movement come out of this,” says Erick Erickson, a prominent conservative activist and blogger. “If the big problems go away on spending and growing government, the tea-party movement may go away altogether.”
I wonder. Does the Tea Party have enough energy and coherence to give birth to a viable third party? Could such a party benefit the American system? Obviously leadership is key and if the Tea Party is anti-establishment, anti-incumbent, and anti-Washington, they will need to find leadership from their own. Sarah Palin is slated to speak at a the first national Tea Party Convention this weekend. Could she be the leader that will unite this disparate band? It will be interesting to see if this collection of concerned citizens develops into something more than a force organized to resist the Obama agenda (though that is no modest goal in itself). If Palin is going to lead this group, she’s going to need more than a handful of platitudes about freedom and disparaging remarks about elites. She can do better and the Tea Party deserves better.