Remember when the Tea Party railed against RINOs (Republicans In Name Only)? Or when they began to define what it meant to be a Republican, with several Republican figures beaten by the likes of Sharron Angle and Christine O'Donnell?
That Tea Party is gone, co-opted by the Establishment of the Grand Old Party as personified by Willard Mitt Romney. After years of arguing that what they need is a strong Reagan conservative to argue their case, they go with a former Massachusetts governor whose history includes support for cap-and-trade, abortion rights and the model on which the dreaded Obamacare is based.
In fact, Romney's vanquishing of Santorum exposes the lie that the Tea Party was ever anything other than the traditional base of the Republican Party. Republicans in power have portrayed the Tea Party as a bold new voice in American politics, a force that cannot be resisted. "I'd like to make Compromise X, Mr. President, but the Tea Partiers in my caucus..."
The best evidence that the Tea Party was the traditional Republican base in silly hats is that there has been no separate Republican base for the past 3 years. It's not like there were three groups: Establishment Republicans, the Tea Party and the Republican base. The Tea Party was the base. Romney's victory shows that the Establishment was always the most powerful faction in the party and could have stood up to the party's radical base if it had wanted.
But the party didn't want to do so, because the myth of the Tea Party helped push the entire country to the right. Obama has taken over John McCain's all-of-the-above energy policy and cap-and-trade, has continued elements of Bush's foreign policy and fought for Mitt Romney's health care policy.
Romney's victory breaks the stranglehold the Tea Party held over the GOP. The myth had an influential run.