Or, as one activist quipped: “Dude, where’s my movement?” It has suddenly taken off, and everyone’s scrambling to catch up.

“People are starting to realize that the tea party represents a powerful get-out-the-vote machine,” said Matt Kibbe, president of FreedomWorks. “We’ve got the most energized voting constituency in the country. This movement has been organizing since before April 2009, and all of that community is energizing and driving public opinion. The establishment is taking us more seriously. There’s nothing like turning out votes in an election that matters.”

And that pretty much sums up the past week. It went from being the brunt of jokes intended to marginalize the growing grassroots movement that threatened politics-as-usual, to being ignored in between primaries, to suddenly being the dominant story in all news cycles.

The new push illustrates the movement’s transformation since the primaries from a disorganized coalition of fiscally conservative activists to a measurable political force.

But as the liberal activists and the media try to get a grip on it, they’ve reached for a description that fits their angst about its forward movement. And as usual, they’re uncreative and terribly unoriginal. Like ‘Where’s Waldo?’, it’s getting to be a game to find the news story in big media that doesn’t have the word ‘insurgent’ in it, applied somehow to the GOP. This WaPo piece has it in the video caption.

It’s a few paragraphs down in this USA Today piece, and all over the place in other stories, blogs and news broadcasts.

And in the middle of some good analysis in this New York Times political blog, there it is again. It diminishes otherwise fine reporting. But aside from parroting the silly term, the piece takes a fair and honest look at what the movement actually represents. Wisely, it doesn’t draw conclusions but asks good questions, and offers some possible answers.

How loyal will voters who were inspired by the Tea Party remain to the Republican Party -– and how loyal will Republicans remain to the Tea Party? The relationship is to some extent one of convenience. The Tea Party has candidates full of energy and chutzpah and some fresh-seeming ideas, but it lacks, on its own, the infrastructure to get these candidates elected. The Republican Party, meanwhile -– while short on popular ideas and popular leaders -– has access to money, voter lists, and experienced strategic hands. To some extent, the Tea Party is renting the Republicans’ electoral infrastructure.

It’s a relationship not only of convenience, but of pragmatism, as the Wall Street Journal noted in this analysis by Haley Barbour, Chairman of the Republican Governors Association.

Tea party voters have been incited to political action by the policies of the Obama administration and the Pelosi-Reid Congress. These include a heretofore unimaginable federal spending spree, a failed package of stimulus programs, a government takeover of our health-care system, and the Democrats’ insistence on raising taxes, particularly on job creators, even though job creation is our country’s greatest need.

Tea party voters are not only motivated by the effect these terrible policies are having on them—they are worried about America’s future. They fear that their children and grandchildren won’t inherit the same country they inherited from their parents and grandparents. What they know with certainty is that future generations will be saddled with paying back the trillions in debt that the Obama administration and Congress are running up with so little positive result.

Now this is key to Barbour and his party:

Replace “tea party” with “Republican” in every instance above, and each description would remain totally accurate. On the issues foremost in voters’ minds—the economy, jobs, spending, taxes, debt and deficits—the overwhelming majority of tea party voters and Republican voters are in strong agreement.

I haven’t heard other media make the point like this:

That is why it was tremendously important for Republican prospects in the 2010 elections that tea partiers did not run as independents or third-party candidates.

Which is precisely what they could have done. Though it doesn’t seem as likely now, things are still evolving…

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....