The Tea Party movement morphed from protest signs to campaign signs.
That's how a Texas Tea Party activist succinctly put it when I asked him what's become of the movement. He said, "We put down our protest signs, and picked up campaign signs."
He said that former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's victory lap after passing Obamacare was a "wake-up call." It signaled that mass demonstrations would not bring significant changes. Change would only come through the ballot box.
Hearing the call, the Tea Party vacated the town squares and hit the streets where it began organizing for the long-term.
It was always a grassroots phenomenon, so no territorial shift was required. And since it enjoyed little, or no, support from established GOP county structures, it didn't need to ask permission from the local GOP leadership, or accept its judgment as authoritative.
Consequently, the movement was largely a Greenfield project, unencumbered by any pre-existing cadre of party hacks, as it morphed from event-driven protests to election-driven activism focused on supporting like-minded candidates.
Today, the local independence of Tea Party organizations remains, but communication between Tea Party organizations has continued to expand, in scope and sophistication.
The absence of central planning is a key to its strength. Decentralization gives it operational flexibility, local ownership of decisions, and continuous learning as concepts are formally, and informally, shared between local organizations. It's a network.
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