[N]o matter what Brooks or Ari Fleischer or Alex Castellanos or any other mainstream conservative pundit says, the driving question occupying the minds of dejected conservatives now out in actual America is not wondering what they can do to better welcome blacks and Hispanics and college kids with bad facial hair into their party. The real question they've been asking themselves since the election is probably closer to, "Why bother?"Taibbi suggests that Sen. Jim DeMint's sudden resignation is symptomatic of the tea party's "we're taking our ball and going home" mentality. And if true, it would make everyone happy. We'd be happy because fuck the tea party. The Republican Party establishment would be happy because fuck the tea party too—those assholes cost the GOP a Senate majority. And the teabaggers would be happy because they could remain pure and unsullied by reality and facts.
A lot of these people gamely banded together to support a Republican nominee who left most of them cold during primary season, Mitt Romney. But there was a palpable air of We're giving this one last chance! in the effort to oust Obama through conventional mainstream politics. And when it was over, pundits everywhere insisted they faced a political Sophie's Choice: stay losers forever, or surrender on core issues.
Of course, that would make them as politically relevant as the Occupy protesters who refuse to sully themselves with the muck of electoral politics. In this world, you can gather all you want in the streets, but it's the people who play during election time who wield all the power. Witness the craziness in Michigan this week, where conservative billionaires threatened hesitant Republican legislators with primary challenges.
The teabaggers matter as long as they can foist the Sharron Angles and Christine O'Donnells and Richard Mourdocks of their world on their party. That's why they have enough leverage in a gerrymandered House to put the fear of god into (nominal) House Speaker John Boehner.
And that's why they're not going anywhere, no matter how much fun Taibbi is having speculating about it (and how much fun I'm having him speculate about it). He's reading too much into DeMint's exit. The guy is an asshole who wore out his welcome. As one of the poorest members in Congress, he could either continue scraping by as he went to work surrounded by people who hated and resented him (mostly those on his own side), or he could cash out for a cool million while continuing to lead the tea party revolution from the outside. He actually made the smart call, which isn't always a given with him.
Let's not forget—the entire point of the tea party is to destroy government, and you can't do that from the outside. Appropriations don't get halted at town hall meetings or marches or occupations or by looking like idiots wearing stupid hats or drawing kick-ass pictures of bald eagles firing machine guns with Old Glory waving in the background. Nope, they get stopped by good ol' fashioned legislative obstruction, and there is no shortage of elected Republicans ready and willing to take up where DeMint left off. Heck, DeMint learned the tools of his obstructionist trade from Sen. Tom Coburn, and that asshole isn't going anywhere as far as anyone knows.
The teabaggers will work hard for more uncompromising obstructionists, while DeMint, on his new soapbox at Heritage, will be more than happy to conduct from afar.