Something similar happened to the religious right in the late ’90s, after it unsuccessfully tried to remove Bill Clinton from office. Disenchantment and disarray set in. In 1997, Fortune ranked the Christian Coalition as the seventh most powerful political organization in the United States. By 2000, it barely existed. Conservative Christians continued to vote for Republicans and some of its leaders still enjoyed national prominence. But they failed to strike fear in Republican politicians, and the movement ceased to be a major force in American politics.
The Tea Party could fade even faster. Unlike the religious right, it doesn’t have widely recognized leaders outside elected office to carry on the fight. In this respect, it is more like the left-wing Occupy movement, which disappeared after police ousted its advocates from their encampments.
Earlier this month Frank Rich noted that the label of these anti-government movements might change, but the intensity doesn't:
The present-day anti-government radicals in Congress, and the Americans who voted them into office, are in the minority, but they are a permanent minority that periodically disrupts or commandeers a branch or two of the federal government, not to mention the nation’s statehouses. Their brethren have been around for much of our history in one party or another, and with a constant anti-democratic aim: to thwart the legitimacy of a duly elected leader they abhor, from Lincoln to FDR to Clinton to Obama, and to resist any laws with which they disagree. So deeply rooted are these furies in our national culture that their consistency and tenacity should be the envy of other native political movements.