Even though there is no one center of Tea Party authority -- indeed, in some ways because there is no one organized center -- the entire gaggle of grassroots and elite organizations amounts to a pincer operation that wields money and primary votes to exert powerful pressure on Republican officeholders and candidates. Tea Party influence does not depend on general popularity at all. Even as most Americans have figured out that they do not like the Tea Party or its methods, Tea Party clout has grown in Washington and state capitals.
The Tea Parties have a certain clout because they don't want government to do anything at all, therefore they don't need to compromise. It's easier to destroy than create; likewise it's easier to obstruct than to govern. Since TP'ers believe governing is a "necessary evil," for them the less the better. It's very hard to defeat such nihilism that really wants nothing but to throw a monkey wrench into Big Government's gears. At the national level, they use the filibuster, committee hearings, judicial appointments, the debt ceiling and other parliamentary tactics to distract and obstruct our government from doing anything. Indeed, this Congress has been the most do-nothing in history.
It's also hard to compromise with TP'ers who are fundamentally dishonest about their true aims, and hypocritical to boot. Skocpol studied the TP movement and came to this conclusion:
Fiscal conservatism is often said to be the top grassroots Tea Party priority, but ... I did not find this to be true. Crackdowns on immigrants, fierce opposition to Democrats, and cuts in spending for the young were the overriding priorities we heard from volunteer Tea Partiers, who are often, themselves, collecting costly Social Security, Medicare, and veterans' benefits to which they feel fully entitled as Americans who have “paid their dues” in lifetimes of hard work.
Bottom line: electorally, the Tea Parties will never win. That is, they can't do any better than the old GOP. They can simply replace "RINOs" and moderate Republicans in safely Republican districts with their far-right TP candidates. In competitive races, the nutty TP candidate usually loses to a Democrat.
By Theda Skocpol
December 26, 2013 | The Atlantic