Best line on the Matt Bai feature on the Tea Party that comes out Sunday in the New York Times magazine: the article “has a bit of a National Geographic feel to it,” according to a Commentary blogger, because the South Carolina conservatives interviewed in the piece are so alien to Bai.

Still, the piece, already available online, is definitely something you should read. Bai captures what he sees as an unraveling of the movement. His evidence is that the Tea Party is unable to unite behind a single candidate to keep Mitt Romney from winning the South Carolina primary:

After months of confusion and bickering over whom to support, a kind of unraveling has occurred at the upper reaches of the movement, in some cases causing friendships to fray and giving rise to charges and countercharges on Facebook. Officers have resigned. Angry statements have been issued. Reputations have been damaged.

Another way to look at the Tea Party is that it was always a movement more of ideas than politics. “Its inability to unite around a single Republican candidate proves its focus was on ideas, not the ambitions of a party or its backers,” argues Commentary’s Jonathan Tobin.

 As such, this movement was enormously successful in promoting its ideas in 2010 but has probably since been unofficially folded into the Republican Party. There is can can keep reminding Republicans of the impportance of limited government and a strict interpretation of the Constitution. But the notion that the Tea Party per se will become a third party is probably spent.

But it was great while it lasted, and it probably has given the Republican Party some much-needed oomph and intellectual ballast. 

It does strike me that the Tea Party will leave a greater imprint on society than one often wistfully seen as the left's answer to the Tea Party–Occupy Wall Street.

Occupy seems to be ending with—literally—not a bang but a whimper. I refer to the whimper of a child left alone in the cold at the DC Occupy encampment.

Let's be glad that the Tea Party is the movement likely to have the most enduring influence.