Supporters cheer former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty at the Tea Party Patriots American Policy Summit in Phoenix last month. (Darryl Webb/AP)

Meanwhile, 47 percent view it unfavorably.

That can only mean one thing: It’s becoming a real party!

Do you know who else has unfavorable numbers that bad? Try the Republicans or the Democrats: 48 percent unfavorable for both.

Some say the popularity decline is an indication that the Tea Party is losing steam. “Its entire modus operandi is that it wants lower taxes and less intrusive, malicious government,” they point out. “If you can’t get wider support for that kind of thing, that’s a terrible sign! That’s like not getting support for — breathing.”

Sure. And there’s other things too — I blame the Tea Party for the horrifying ambiguity that surrounds an announcement like “My baby daughter’s birthday is Tea-Party themed!” conjuring up horrifying visions of teddy bears who want to see everyone’s birth certificates. But this surge in unpopularity could just indicate that the Tea Party is moving from theory to practice – and with that comes a certain inevitable loss of approval.

Everyone likes everything— in theory. In theory, everyone wants a puppy. In practice, puppies leave brown, scented gifts in your living room, destroy antique chairs and engender spousal discord.

“Everyone deserves pie,” you say. Everyone cheers! But show up and try to figure out an equitable system for pie distribution, pie creation, and pie-related dispute resolution, and see how many cheers you get.

Perhaps the Tea Party is getting the same pushback. Becoming unpopular means that you must be doing something!

After all, it’s showing distressing signs of entrenching itself in actual political life. Gone are the halcyon days when it was comprised entirely of people in hats with tea bags hanging off the brims, holding signs that expressed CAPITALIZED DISPLEASURE WITH THINGS AS THEY ARE. Now they actually have representatives, and rallies, and dinners, and conferences, and all that jazz. Their carefree bachelor days of teabagging about the countryside and not having to run a party apparatus are at an end. It’s like when the joke ticket wins the student council presidency. You glance away, and suddenly the government’s about to shut down!

Consider: nothing says, “It’s a real party here!” like, “Tim Pawlenty’s going to speak now.”