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Does 'tea party' populism verge into extremism?

Ties between the tea party movement and the patriot movement could diminish the impact of conservative protesters. But seeing the tea party solely as a fringe movement has already cost the Democrats dearly.

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“We have traditionally been the people that pay the bills and vote on Election Day but have sat back and been involved in other things rather than politics,” activist Phillip Dennis told the Texas Tribune recently.

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To be sure, many in the movement take the bad with the good.

“Yes, the feelings, thoughts, and opinions of Tea Party patriots are all over the place,” writes tea party activist Lloyd Marcus at American Thinker. “What a mess! Well, I say, how wonderful!"

Despite recent successes, the tea party movement is likely to suffer if middle America sees it as a violent rebellion looming in the wings.

Can activists identify rogue elements?

One test is whether tea party activists are willing, or able, to identify rogue elements. That won’t be easy to do given the decentralized nature of the movement.

But reports like Barstow’s in The New York Times also run the risk of making it too easy for Democrats to make the same mistake they made before Scott Brown’s election to the US Senate in Massachusetts: discounting, dismissing, or even ridiculing the power of a populist movement that, though it may be confounding to national observers, is working quietly in local and state elections to vet and support Constitution-minded politicians.

“With ordinary Americans setting out to reclaim the political process, it’s likely to be a bumpy ride for incumbents of both parties,” writes Instapundit blogger Glenn Reynolds in a recent Wall Street Journal column. “I suspect the Founding Fathers would approve.”

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