Diminishing returns

DIMINISHING RETURNS…. Last month’s “Tea Party” protests weren’t especially consequential. Far-right activists, with a variety of messages and goals, got together; Fox News seemed awfully excited; and plenty of jokes were told about Tea Baggers. But I’m left with the same feeling a month after the events that I had on April 16: what was all that about?

There’s apparently going to be some kind of sequel today.

Two prominent GOP governors will host a telephonic anti-tax tea party today, an effort organized by the Republican Governors Association to capitalize politically on the outrage expressed in last month’s nationwide protests.

The call, which will be led by Govs. Rick Perry (Texas) and Mark Sanford (S.C.), will feature 30,000 participants in a sort-of virtual town hall, according to RGA spokesman Mike Schrimpf.

“I have never before seen this level of political energy,” said Sanford yesterday in an interview with the Fix. The goal of today’s town hall, added Sanford, is to figure out “how do you take that energy and continue building it toward a movement that accomplishes change.”

Perry emphasized, “These aren’t crazy people.” Given the Texas governor’s recent support for secession, he lacks a certain credibility on who is and isn’t “crazy.”

Nevertheless, I’m less inclined to be annoyed at Tea Party II (Electric Boogaloo), and more inclined to feel sorry for it. These folks have gone from a series of national events and the support of a major cable network and corporate lobbyists to a giant conference call with Sanford and Perry. Feel the “revolutionary” fervor? Not so much.

For that matter, according to conservative activists, the whole point of the “Tea Parties” was to witness a more-or-less spontaneous uprising, generated by organic right-wing outrage, in a bottom-up model. Today’s “Tea Party 2.0,” however, drops the pretense altogether — it’s organized by the Republican Governors Association, which is encouraging activists to help (read: raise money for) the GOP in this year’s gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia.

It is, in other words, a shameless partisan stunt, from a party desperate for a few wins in November.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.