Of course, if the second inauguration isn't the only thing downsized. So is the political movement Obama’s presidency inspired. CNBC's Rick Santelli is generally credited with putting wind in the sails of the Tea Party movement.
In a 2010 New Yorker article, Ben McGrath took stock of the conservative momentum.
Santelli’s rant was delivered at 7:10 a.m., Chicago time, but it was highly YouTube-able, and all the more effective to the alienated masses—“the rabble,” as some have taken to calling themselves—because Santelli was not a known conservative mouthpiece like Rush Limbaugh or Beck or Sean Hannity. …
As spring passed into summer, the scores at local Tea Party gatherings turned to hundreds, and then thou-sands, collecting along the way footloose Ron Paul supporters, goldbugs, evangelicals, Atlas Shruggers, militiamen, strict Constitutionalists, swine-flu skeptics, scattered 9/11 “truthers,” neo-“Birchers,” and, of course, “birthers”—those who remained convinced that the President was a Muslim double agent born in Kenya. “We’ll meet back here in six months,” Beck had said in March, and when September 12th arrived even the truest of believers were surprised by the ap-parent strength of the new movement, as measured by the throngs who made the pilgrimage to the Capitol for a Taxpayer March on Washington, swarming the Mall with signs reading “ ‘1984’ Is Not an Instruction Man-ual” and “The Zoo Has an African Lion and the White House Has a Lyin’ African!”
The tea party “is in disarray,” said Erick Erickson, the editor of RedState, a blog that helped crystallize the fiscally conservative ethos of the populist movement. Going forward, tea partiers will “either be within the conservative movement as part of that movement or they won’t be effective.”
Polls have shown Americans turning away from the tea party: 24 percent of likely voters considered them-selves tea party members in April 2010, according to a Rasmussen survey. Now, only 8 percent say they’re tea party members. (emphasis ours)
What’s going on? Amy Gardner of the Washington Post offered details on serious trouble at the offices of the Tea Party’s deep-pocketed sugar daddy, FreedomWorks:
The day after Labor Day, just as campaign season was entering its final frenzy, FreedomWorks, the Washing-ton-based tea party organization, went into free fall.
Richard K. Armey, the group’s chairman and a former House majority leader, walked into the group’s Capitol Hill offices with his wife, Susan, and an aide holstering a handgun at his waist. The aim was to seize control of the group and expel Armey’s enemies: The gun-wielding assistant escorted FreedomWorks’ top two employees off the premises, while Armey suspended several others who broke down in sobs at the news.
The coup lasted all of six days. By Sept. 10, Armey was gone -- with a promise of $8 million -- and the five ousted employees were back. The force behind their return was Richard J. Stephenson, a reclusiveIllinoismillionaire who has exerted increasing control over one ofWashington’s most influential conservative grass-roots organizations.
The full and unbelievable story is here.
All this leads Conor Friedersdorf, writing for The Atlantic, to sigh:
The Tea Party isn't entirely captured by the inside-the-Beltway huckster complex, but the ties are close enough that every earnest donor runs a risk of having a portion of their hard-earned contribution siphoned off. InWashington, lots of leeches get fat on the idealism of the grassroots. In a world where an idealist can help a friend run for city council or donate mosquito nets or make micro-finance loans or sponsor a church mission to build houses in a third world country why risk help-ing to pay for Beck's next mansion? Especially when the folks running things have so mismanaged the Tea Party's image that former members are abandoning it in droves.
Is this the end, then? Don’t count on it, Frank Rich wrote in New Yorkmagazine back in October: The Tea Party Will Win in the End:
History tells us that American liberals have long underestimated the reach and resilience of the right, repeatedly dismissing it as a lunatic fringe and pronouncing it dead only to watch it bounce back stronger after each setback. That pattern was identified in an influential essay, “The Problem of American Conservatism,” published by the historian Alan Brinkley in 1994. Brinkley was writing two years after the religious right of Pat Robertson had stunned liberals by hijacking the GOP convention from the country-club patrician George H.W. Bush—the same fundamentalist right that had ostensibly retreated from politics after the humiliating Scopes trial in the twenties. …
Such is the power of denial that we simply refuse to concede that, by the metric of intractability, at least, conservatives are the cockroaches of the American body politic, poised to outlast us all. And so, after Obama’s victory in 2008, the Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg spoke for sentimental liberal triumphalists everywhere when he concluded that America is now “in a progressive period” and that “the conservative movement brought about by the Gingrich revolution has been crushed.” That progressive period lasted all of a year, giving way to the 2009 gubernatorial victories of the conservatives Bob McDonnell (in the purple state of Virginia) and Chris Christie (in blue New Jersey), as well as that summer’s raucous Obamacare pro-tests. Few Democrats had imagined that the new African-American president would be besieged so quickly by a conservative populist movement whose adherents dressed in 1776 drag and worshipped the frothing-at-the-blackboard Glenn Beck. Or that such a movement would administer a “shellacking” in the midterms.