As even detractors reluctantly argue the Tea Party movement is here to stay, Sarah Palin is set to align her fortunes with the surging political force by headlining the "first-ever Tea Party convention," according to the Christian Science Monitor. While this seems like a turning point for the grassroots movement--and perhaps for the ex-Alaska governor herself--commentators are sharply divided on whether Palin's presence signals a gradual takeover by professional politicians, and whether the Tea Party will mount a legitimate third-party contender in coming elections.

  • The End of the Tea Party  This is a "bad idea," says conservative blogger Dan Riehl. "It'll go on, become partisan, and may even do tremendous good in 2010. But this is the beginning of the end of [the Tea Party] as a ground up movement. Let the co-optation begin. Happens everytime there's money to be made." To clarify his objection, he adds, "anytime professional politics gets involved with a genuine grassroots movement, I believe it's a good idea to understand just waht's [sic] going on and who's pulling the strings." He also suggests that this move might "alienate [Palin] from part of the base."
  • Mixed Feelings, Particularly About Pay  Lonely Conservative writes of being "torn," sympathizing with the Tea Party movement but thinking "all this talk of a third party ... is counterproductive," and likely to lead to Democratic victories. Instead, "I'm hoping the GOP will learn something from the Tea Party movement and behave accordingly." Also, Lonely Conservative isn't nuts about the report of Palin taking a hefty sum for speaking at the event--while a big Palin supporter, the blogger says that being paid $75,000 for the event, as rumors are having it, makes her seem "fake."
  • Tremendous Potential  "On its face," writes The Christian Science Monitor's Patrik Johnsson, whose analysis piece helped set off the online discussion, "the gig would seem a step down for Ms. Palin. But with an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll ranking a generic “Tea Party” as more popular than either Democrats or Republicans, and Palin herself rivaling the charming Mr. Obama in poll popularity, many experts see the Tea Party event as a potential milestone for a mounting, even transformational, force in US politics." Furthermore, he writes, "agreeing to appear at a major Tea Party event also gives Palin a larger platform to criticize the president and Congress, and it guarantees news coverage, potentially building momentum for a future campaign."
  • Problems and Promise in the Tea Party  The Washington Post's Jonathan Capehart, writing before the Palin news broke, discusses the particularly tricky dynamics of the Tea Party movement with regard to established parties, both Republican and Democrat, that Palin will be stepping into:
[The Tea Party movement is] best known for attracting ideological wing-nuts who want to lurch the GOP even further to the right. But as David Brooks noted yesterday, it has become the life of the Republican party -- and could destroy it. Tea partiers took down Florida Republican Party Chairman Jim Greer, who said had he not announced his resignation Tuesday, his critics would have attempted to "burn the house down and destroy the Republican Party" ... No one knows what impact any of this is going to have on the November elections. A lot can happen between now and then. But one thing is clear. The American people are mad as hell. They want those in power to come up with solutions to their economic concerns. Still to be determined is whether Democrats and Republicans in Washington can actually quell their anger.