“The Tea Party movement is more organized, more focused and more potent,” said Rep. Scott, who talks regularly to Dugan. “What happened in 2010 was not the end. It was just the beginning.”
Tea Party supporters now hold fewer sign-waving rallies, a hallmark of their early opposition to bank bailouts and President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform in 2009. But the movement isn’t losing steam.
Interviews with activists across 20 U.S. states indicate that Tea Party groups, far from fading, have evolved into an increasingly sophisticated and effective network of activists. They are working to unseat establishment Republicans who they believe have betrayed the principles of lower taxes, limited government, and free markets.
“Those who think the Tea Party is on the wane are in for a gigantic surprise in 2012,” says Debbie Dooley, co-organizer of the Atlanta Tea Party. “We have built a grassroots army and we will be a fine-tuned machine next year.”
The goal of these loosely affiliated but fiercely independent groups nationwide is to hone their electoral skills and build a “farm team” of public officials who can ascend through the ranks of government. It’s a long-term strategy that looks past the 2012 election to a takeover of the Republican Party and the U.S. Congress.