As the election approaches there is growing reason to believe that the Tea Party is neither distinct from, or even a part of, the Republican Party. Instead the two have, to a large extent, become the same. Some within the Republican Party may differ in style and presentation from Tea Party Republicans, but that is where the distinction ends. Few Republicans have spoken out about rhetorical excesses of the Tea Party, and when they have, they have turned their attention to individual actions or gaffes -- Rich Iott's Nazi outfits and the like -- rather than to positions or views on major issues. Even the most bizarre claims that have gotten good traction in the Tea Party movement, such as those asserting that President Obama is not a citizen, have rarely been soundly refuted by others in the Republican Party.
Being the party of voter anger has proven to be a surprisingly effective short term political strategy, but it is a terrible governing strategy. What was left of the more thoughtful, if still conservative, leadership of the Republican Party after the Bush years has been completely defeated in the almost two years since Obama took office. The checks on the party's fringes are no longer there, so people who like to dress up as Nazis, advocate abolishing all public education, want to end Social Security and believe that any economic policy to the left of Ayn Rand is synonymous with Stalinism have emerged as the new face of the Republican Party.