The Tea Party

For two years, the Tea Party has been a controversial force -- a grassroots movement with insanely rich benefactors (such as the Koch brothers) and establishment leaders (such as Dick Armey) -- loud and proud in its disgust of free-spending Washington, Obama's "socialist" agenda, and mandates on business and individuals. Welfare and entitlement programs, as well as foreign aid, were hot-button issues at rallies throughout the nation.

In 2010, candidates associated with the Tea Party proved a primary headache for Republicans and Democrats alike in midterm elections. Even though only about one-third of those candidates ultimately prevailed, it was clear the movement was forcing mainstream politicians to adapt to their message or face the wrath of voters.

But how effective was the message this year? Without national elections, would the freshman class live up to its potential and promises, especially in a year much of the political dialogue was right in its wheelhouse -- a bitter debate over raising the debt ceiling and related budget-cutting and revenue-raising conflicts?

The economists' grade: D- (two gave grades, one gave an "absent" and one gave a grade of "mixed")

Why: "They raised many of the right issues but got sidetracked by barely disguised racism and then taken over by the right wing of the Republican Party," Wray says.

The managers' grade: C+ (all five gave grades)

Why: The Tea Party has "energized a part of the Republican party that has dug in its heels on tax increases . . . and that's had an impact on the raising of the debt ceiling and the supercommittee. There's been an influence, but it's negative," Nolte says.

The advocates' grade: C (three gave grades and one gave an "incomplete."

Why: Moss enthuses that the group has good ideas and "clear economic principles" -- smaller government and balanced budgets, for instance. However, Van Slyke says the group is too interested in cutting services "that help everyday people" in the name of a balanced budget, when austerity "does nothing to help the economy."

The Occupy Wall Street movement

Opponents of radical economic imbalance started marching on Wall Street on Sept. 17 -- then sat down and started occupying it. A tent city went up in Zuccotti Park in downtown Manhattan, complete with a lending library and media representatives as well as drum circles and free food. With initial tolerance on the part of city officials and law enforcement, Occupy movements sprang up around the country, then the world.

The occupations and marches drew attention, and soon everyone was talking about the 1% and the 99%. In mid-November the evictions began, and now Occupy's physical presence is gone from most major U.S. cities. But as Adbusters' Kalle Lasn expected, that doesn't mean the end of the movement, just a shift indoors, with more decision-making by social media and less by finger-wiggling at general assemblies.

Did someone say decision-making? The main slam against Occupy has been that its anarchical approach to activism produced muddy manifestos lacking in solid objectives.

The economists' grade: A- or C+ (three gave grades, one gave an "incomplete" and one gave a tentative grade of either A or F "depending on which activist you talk to")

Why: The economists say the Occupy movement started out well (with a belief "in creating a just society, whatever that means," Frank says) -- and "correctly identified the problem of big business benefiting from crony capitalism coming from big government handouts and favors," as Powell says -- but faltered.

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The managers' grade: C- (all five gave grades)

Why: The movement is right to call the country on its income inequality, they say, but Hodges thinks "they have no clue about how capitalism works" and Dailey said the "movement has been co-opted by the anti-G-20 anarchists who are up for a protest at any time."

The advocates' grade: B- (four gave grades)

Why: Morran says Occupy started out as a muddle and gained focus, including helping power Bank Transfer Day. Its very public and persistent protests mean that "at least people are actually discussing the problems," Morran says, "and that's never a bad thing." That's not enough for Moss, who finds the movement's lack of clear leadership and imperatives flunkable offenses.