The smarter Beltway institutions realize that they won’t be able to orchestrate every advance the way they could in times past. They have latched on to the recent book The Starfish and the Spider as a way to explain the growth of the movement. With today’s communication networks, the book argues, movements can spawn and replicate without central leadership. If you cut off the spider’s head, it dies. If you cut the starfish in half, not only does it live, but the two parts grow into separate starfishes. FreedomWorks has been busy evangelizing the book and popularizing the Movement 2.0 concept of leaderless replication. “You take the Dayton tea party and you cut it in half, and it becomes two of them — and that’s what’s been happening,” FreedomWorks’s Adam Brandon told Politico in July. “It’s a better model for the type of activism we want to do. So we talk about it a lot. We recommend it.”
What comes next for the Tea Party movement? In a sense, the election results — including the lost Senate races in Delaware, Colorado, Washington State, and Nevada — were the best the movement could have hoped for. With the GOP controlling just one chamber, it remains a quasi-insurgency inside the Beltway, and insurgencies are conducive to the growth of true grassroots movements. 2012 will be all about the White House, not Congress, with the energy of the nomination fight and the general-election contest against Obama keeping Tea Party activists involved in Republican-party politics for the next two years.