The tea partiers will hold their first ever national convention Feb. 4-6 in Nashville, and Sarah Palin will be there to take up the mantle that has been waiting for her as the movement's most visible and popular hero, delivering the keynote address at its closing-night banquet on Saturday night.
To call Palin a leader of the Tea Party movement would be inapt: she's not officially affiliated, and, in fact, no one really is: the only politician who can almost be called part of the movement is Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), who organized the Tea Party rally outside the Capitol in November and who will speak at the convention's Friday morning breakfast.
The convention will take the Tea Party movement into new territory. So far, it's existed only as rallies and protests, organized on conference calls among activists, more conference calls with conservative leaders in DC, word-of-mouth, and the websites of national conservative groups that have sought to provide information about where gatherings are taking place. The movement has prided itself on its organic nature, and has resisted any association with top-down organizational structure.
Now, activists will gather in one place at a convention center, for breakfasts, dinners, and speeches at the Opryland Hotel and Convention Center, for an affair that could resemble the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), held in Washington, DC every year.