Good job by CNN -- seriously -- subjecting the whole Tea Party madness to some genuine scrutiny, and for pointing out that all is not well out there on the extreme right.
Promoted enthusiastically by Fox News, backed by right-wing lobbyists and think tanks like FreedomWorks, co-opted by the GOP, dominated by Republican partisanship, and often happy to welcome Republicans to its ranks, leading Republicans like Sarah Palin, the tea party movement, such as it is one, isn't quite the grassroots independent revolution its admirers claim it is:
As the primary season begins, Tea Partiers disagree about where the movement is heading. Rival factions are battling over who will carry the Tea Party banner. Some members worry powerful groups are "astroturfing" what they think should remain a grass-roots group.
"I don't think the Tea Party knows what's happening to the Tea Party," Sacramento party activist Jim Knapp said. "I don't think there's any question the GOP has their tentacles into the Tea Party."
Mark Meckler and Jenny Beth Martin, founders of the Tea Party Patriots, say they are proud of what the movement has accomplished, but they are frustrated that other Tea Party groups are being run by Republican political consultants forking over lots of cash for recruitment.
The Tea Party Express, a conservative bus tour that crisscrossed the country last year, was run from inside a Republican political consulting firm.
Right now, [author John] Avlon said, the Tea Party groups are trying to flex their muscle and move the Republican Party further to the right.
But the unanswered questions are where that takes the Tea Party and how it affects the GOP in the long term.
"If it helps focus the Republican Party on a core message of a return to fiscal conservatism, which it abandoned when it had unified control of Congress... then I think that can help strengthen the party's commitment to that core unifying issue," Avlon said.
"But if it just empowers the extremes in the party, then I think when extremes control parties, when wingnuts hijack a political party -- ultimately, they take it off a cliff."
Yes, yes, there is still a good deal of genuine grassroots independence among the teabaggers, a good deal of anti-Republican sentiment, as much of the movement represents a far-right assault on both parties, and on the political establishment generally, but it's clear the hijacking is underway -- and it comes from both sides, with the GOP trying to hijack the tea party movement and the tea party movement, or some of it, trying to hijack the GOP.
Indeed, as HuffPo reported last year, the movement has "an honored place within the mainstream Republican party." And it makes sense that Republicans are eagerly trying to merge the two -- according to a Rasmussen poll conducted late last year, the "Tea Party" is significantly more popular than the "Republican Party."
So what now? The identity crisis will no doubt continue, with a good deal of soul-searching at this weekend's national convention, but so will the joint efforts of Republicans and teabaggers to pull the GOP even further to the right than it is already.