Salena Zito | Tea Party at a Crossroads

Dispirited by congressional wrangling over the debt ceiling in 2011, Tea Party members‘ passions began to wane. Then other forces took hold to intensify the conservative movement‘s struggle to remain relevant, says Sen. Jim DeMint.

“They were discouraged by the performance of the Republicans (in budget talks) and they were intimidated by the Occupy Wall Street protest tactics, which gave rallies a bad name,” DeMint, 61, a South Carolina Republican, told the Tribune-Review.

DeMint, in office since 2005, will resign in January to become president of The Heritage Foundation.

One of the Senate‘s most conservative members, he helped ignite the Tea Party movement. Now, DeMint said, he‘s not sure whether it will continue in its present form, become part of the Republican Party or attempt to become a third political party.

“They don‘t necessarily want to be Republicans,” DeMint said. “If Republicans want to embrace the ideas of constitutional government and balanced budget, then they are fine with Republicans carrying the message and they will get behind them.

“But I don‘t think that most Tea Party people just want to get merged with the Republican Party. The jury is still out if … you are going to see the emergence of a third party with a lot of libertarian themes.”

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