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Tea Party at second anniversary: What happens next?

From Shannon Travis, CNN Political Producer
  • The Tea Party has a colorful history of success, failure, anger, optimism and controversy
  • "It's time to get serious about ... a long-term policy," Tea Party Patriots co-founder says
  • Detractors say movement will either fizzle out or self-destruct in infighting
  • But others want to discuss growth, say predictions of the Tea Party's demise are off

Phoenix (CNN) -- The Tea Party has already stitched together a colorful history made of success and failure, anger and optimism and lots of controversy.

And as the movement marks its second anniversary, it's worth asking: Where is it headed?

"It started spontaneously and organically as a protest/rally movement. And it fully matured, because of the timing, into a movement that involved electoral politics," Tea Party Patriots co-founder Mark Meckler told CNN.

"And so, here we are, on our second anniversary, we've proven that this is a movement that's here to stay. It's time to get serious about -- and pushing forward -- a long-term policy."

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Detractors say the Tea Party movement will either fizzle out or self-destruct in infighting. But Meckler said that predictions of the Tea Party's demise are consistently off.

"They've been saying the same thing since February 27, 2009. I look forward to hearing the same thing in 2019."

Asked about the movement's staying power, Brendan Steinhauser, director of federal and state campaigns for FreedomWorks, was blunt: "We have to institutionalize the revolution."

Steinhauser explained that local groups must now expand memberships and get offices. And they must get inside the offices of local and federal lawmakers as staff members.

"The process has started. The takeover of the Republican Party is under way. It's going to be a long process," Steinhauser said.

How to grow and solidify the movement will dominate the discussion at a conservative summit in Phoenix this weekend sponsored by the Tea Party Patriots. Attendees will discuss economic, constitutional and political issues.

Among the speakers are some potential presidential candidates: Tim Pawlenty, the former Republican governor of Minnesota; Republican Rep. Ron Paul of Texas; and conservative radio host Herman Cain.

There will also probably be a good deal of looking back at the movement's early days. It was born of conservative anger about massive government spending, like the bank bailout and stimulus package. Activists attended rallies, bus tours across the country and other public events to vent their frustration. The protests, the media coverage and the Tea Party's impact grew.