But how does one RSVP?

The "Tea Party" movement continues to fascinate me. I wonder if it's one of those cultural phenomena with staying power, like sugar-free gum or the Internet, or if it's destined to go the way of the Macarena and Lindsay Lohan's film career. My best guess is that their moment in the sun is fast passing, though the rhetoric and agita will probably flare up from time to time.

Part of the major impediment to there being any lasting "Tea Party" effect is the fundamental incoherence of the movement itself, if it can even be accurately described as one. Witness the brouhaha that ensued when they tried to have a convention. Another case in point is insurgent GOP candidate Marco Rubio, who is steadily demolishing Charlie Crist's Senate aspirations from the right.

Via TPM: (And yes, it seems today is my day to regurgitate stuff from TPM. Tomorrow I'm sure I'll steal take inspiration from a different source.)
In the midst of Sunday's heated Florida Republican Senate primary debate on Fox News Sunday, moderator Chris Wallace asked Marco Rubio a question that surprised many viewers up early on a Sunday to watch the festivities.

Wallace read Rubio a viewer email. "'Ask Marco Rubio why he refuses to be vetted by the Florida Tea Parties. I want to hear from Rubio or I will not vote for him,'" Wallace said. "We got this from a bunch of Tea Parties all over the state."


Pam Dahl, leader of the Tri-County Tea Party based in Florida's sprawling retirement community known as The Villages, told me about the problem. It was a complaint from Dahl's group that led to Wallace's question yesterday -- Dahl said she spoke with staff from Wallace's show after an email campaign she started among led to Wallace getting inundated with calls and emails begging him to ask Rubio why he wouldn't submit for candidate "vetting." (Wallace alluded to the source of the question during the debate. "At The Villages they're not happy with you, sir," he told Rubio.)

I image that this may prove frustrating for poor Mr. Rubio.
At the debate, Rubio said to he values his tea party support. "[I]f there's a formal vetting process, I've not been made aware of it. But I can tell you that I'm proud of my association with the Tea Party folks and the fact that we have attended multiple events across the state throughout my candidacy."

But Tea partiers said it was clear from Rubio's answer that he doesn't really get how the movement works.

"If Rubio believes that the Tea Party movement is not organized then he is mistaken," tea party activist Robin Stublen told me. "Locally these groups are highly organized...Just because we do not have a central figure to put on TV every night does not mean there is no organization. We have conference calls weekly and discuss issues and direction during those calls."

Yes, but how does Rubio get "vetted" by a loosely-associated collection of groups throughout the state? Who speaks for them? Does one group's imprimatur speak for the whole? Which group?

Further, it seems even the movement's shiniest, winking-est darling of a keynote speaker gets blow-back when she has the temerity to endorse her former running-mate in his run for re-election to the Senate. There appears to be no tolerance at all for anything other than absolute ideological purity and adherence to some yet-to-be-specified group of criteria.

In the end, the Tea Party hard-liners are going to have to learn the same lesson from the right that the Daily Kos crowd learned when the Ned Lamont campaign ended with a spectacular wah, wah, wah. It's all very well to demand pinky swears from your candidates of choice, but at the end of the day this is a centrist nation, and demanding they pretend otherwise will only mean that they're going to lose, and the relevance of your movement will fall further into question.

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