When a new political movement emerges, it can follow a number of different courses after its moment of passionate intensity. It can lose its focus or relevance and fade into nothingness, like an anti-war movement when the war ends. It can become institutionalized, with professional organizations leading a cause that started from the grass roots, like the environmental movement has. Or it can be co-opted and absorbed by something larger.
Now that the 2010 primaries are all but over, we can say with near certainty that the last -- co-optation -- will be the the Tea Party's fate. Indeed, it has already begun. But what effect will that absorption have on the larger conservative movement?
When the Obama administration was deciding how to deal with the Elizabeth Warren question, they faced a lot of competing pressures. Progressives had become invested in Warren's appointment to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an agency that exists because it was Warren's idea in the first place. Banks and Republicans, on the other hand, don't much like Warren, so there would be a fight over her appointment. And the White House obviously wasn't sure it wanted to have that fight.
When attendees at last week's Values Voter Summit made Indiana Congressman Mike Pence the winner of their presidential straw poll, he wanted everyone to hear one message: I, Mike Pence, am a man of great humility. Not only that, his wife is humble too. "Karen and I are humbled by the results of today's straw poll," he said in a statement. "However, my focus remains on winning a conservative majority in the U.S. House in November." Since when did we decide that when you want to say "flattered," what you should say is "humbled"?