With both mainstream Republicans turning against the event and other legitimate elements of the Tea Party movement generally ignoring it, the environment seems to have turned rather strange. The huge number of press representatives who were invited are being excluded from many of the events and the convention has already attracted national negative attention when opening speaker Joseph Farah launched a birther screed about President Obama's Birth certificate, garnering major negative response from left and right alike.
As a result of all of this, attendance is embarrassingly low, with an official estimate of only 600 paid attendees, which is far less than the left's similar Netroots Nation event which intentionally capped attendance at about three times that size. I've run a lot of conventions, and with that few attendees and paying for Opryland and $100,000 for Sarah Palin's speech, even at $549 a head it seems very unlikely that the organizers will see more than a modest profit, and the new Ensuring Liberty PAC which they are launching out of the convention isn't going to have a lot of cash to throw around as a result.
Now I have to admit that everyone has a right to make a buck, and if turning the Tea Party movement into a circus and inviting the scorn of the left media and genuine grassroots activists is worth enduring to make some money, then Mark Skoda and Justin Phillips of Tea Party Nation have every right to do it. And we can't blame Sarah Palin for banking another six figures in her bank account. But I think that there is reason to be concerned about what this event will do to the grassroots movement which it represents so poorly.
Obviously an event like this isn't going to put an end to the genuine discontent among working Americans which motivated all of the protests over the past year. Yet it really does highlight the biggest problem that these loosely associated Tea Party groups have, which is their lack of nationwide organization. They are inherently leery of some of the organizations which could provide them with guidance and structure like FreedomWorks and don't want to sell out to the corporate interests they feel those groups represent. But it's clear from this convention that even some from within their own ranks are pretty eager to sell out and turn a profit from the movement without really moving them any closer to unity.