Reports of the Tea Party's Death Have Been Endlessly Exaggerated

The movement's demise has been a constant prediction since April 2011. We're still waiting.


Over at National Journal today, Josh Kraushaar has a smart column on the state of the Tea Party. He notes that contrary to doomsday predictions within the GOP, the number of primary challenges from the right to sitting Republican members of Congress is actually quite modest for the 2014 midterm elections, at least so far. Kraushaar takes this as a sign that the Tea Party might be on its downslope. What he wisely doesn't do is to call the whole thing off. "This doesn't mean the clout of the conservative grassroots has declined," he writes. "The tea party has been a victim of its own successes, pushing the center of gravity in the House decidedly rightward."

But reading this tempered take got me thinking about all the people who have predicted that the Tea Party was over. It's a surprisingly long list, with a surprisingly long pedigree, ranging from April 2011 -- when the movement was arguably near its peak -- right up through the present day. It includes commentators and politicians on the left, right, and center.

Unlike the sort of pedigree a prince or a puppy might wish for, this is an undistinguished line: After all, the fact that the debate is ongoing is about the strongest proof there is that the forecasts of death were hasty. Here's a treasury of misguided predictions:

  • The American Prospect, April 11, 2011: "About a year ago, I began predicting that this Tea Party thing was going to just peter out, particularly once the 2012 GOP nomination contest began .... Wishful thinking? Sure. But it seems to be coming true.
  • Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune, August 7, 2011: "Is the tea party over?" (Answer: The "movement scored big in the nerve-racking debt-ceiling debacle, but the victory left enough hard feelings to feed the movement's ultimate defeat.")
  • Harry Reid, August 14, 2011: "The Tea Party was the result of a terrible economy .... That will pass. They will lose a number of seats next year."
  • Bill Keller, The New York Times, October 9, 2011: "Is the Tea Party Over?" (Answer: Yes, because Mitt Romney is winning the race for the GOP presidential nomination.)
  • Doyle McManus, Los Angeles Times, January 5, 2012:  "Is the tea party over?" (Answer, yes -- but "the tea party has changed the political landscape in ways that are likely to last for a while.")
  • Kevin McCullough, Townhall, January 8, 2012: "When the Tea Party Died" (Answer: Some indeterminate point between November 2010 and January 2012)
  • Harry Reid (again!), January 15, 2012: "I think the tea party is dying out as the economy is getting better slowly.”
  • Patricia Murphy, The Daily Beast, February 7, 2012: "Tea Party ‘Is Dead’: How the Movement Fizzled in 2012’s GOP Primaries"
  • John Lloyd, Reuters, March 14, 2012: "The Tea Party has drowned."
  • Aaron Blake, The Washington Post, April 6, 2012: "The tea party movement, now nearly three years old, has fallen out of favor with Americans. And Democrats are prepared to use it against Republicans in the 2012 election."
  • Jack Cafferty, CNN, April 23, 2012: "Is the Tea Party over?" (Answer: Typically noncommittal.)
  • Doug Schoen, The New York Times, June 21, 2012: "The Tea Party Is Not Dead."
  • James Carville, June 27, 2012: "The Tea Party is Over.”
  • Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, November 5, 2012: "The Tea Party is over."
  • Tim Stanley, The Telegraph, November 7, 2012: "Is the Tea Party over?" (Answer: "Radical social conservatism may have brought it to an end.")
  • Kevin Drum, Mother Jones, November 9, 2012: "The Tea Party Is Dead. Long Live the Tea Party."
  • Alan Greenblatt, NPR, December 31, 2012: "Is The Party Over For The Tea Party?" (Answer: It's in a sophomore slump.)
  • Adele Stan, Salon, January 14, 2013: "Is the Tea Party over?" (Answer: It "depends on whether you see it as a political movement or an elaborate right-wing marketing plan.")

The reality, however, is much scarier. Just take it from America's most trusted news source: In fact, the Tea Party is undead: