The movement once had real policy goals, but its self-appointed bosses now preach opposition for opposition's sake.
There were two really impressive facts about the Tea Party. One was the way it managed to convince tens of thousands of Americans to care about the very dry matters of budget policy. That didn't always mean that the level of discourse was on par with the Krugmans and Mankiws of the world, but it was fundamentally a movement that had a real policy goal: lowering taxes, slashing the budget and lowering the deficit. Its second great strength was its leaderlessness. Yes, groups like FreedomWorks and benefactors like the Koch brothers gave it monetary and organizational muscle, but the movement's behavior -- feuding over who was really a Tea Party candidate, or managing to nominate candidates like Sharron Angle and Christine O'Donnell -- pointed to its genuine grassroots constituency.
As has been much remarked, a lot of the Tea Party's energy and centrality in politics seems to have dissipated, and the likely nomination of the moderate Mitt Romney further serves to emphasize the point. What's interesting is how those who tried to position themselves as "leaders" of the supposedly leaderless movement have reacted by adopting a sort of nihilist politics, in which bashing the establishment simply for the sake of bashing it replaces bashing the establishment for the sake of removing entrenched interests and cutting spending.