washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Tea Party Convention: Third Force or Takeover Bid?

For all the notoriety of the Tea Party Movement, it’s been difficult to get any reliable fix on its fundamental political objectives. Is it a “third force” in American politics that will either morph into a third party and/or burn itself out through ineffectual if incendiary protests? Or is it essentially a hard-right takeover bid aimed at turning the GOP into a mirror image of its ideological obsesssions, ranging from gun rights to anti-immigration sentiment to radical reductions in taxes and spending?
We may get a better understanding of the answer to that question next month, when a group called the Tea Party Nation puts on the first-ever national convention of tea party organizers and activists at Nashville’s Opryland.
TPM’s Christina Bellatoni says the convention’s agenda “sounds a lot like an attempt to form an official third party.” I dunno; the announced speakers list looks a lot like a prayer meeting of the right wing of the Republican Party. The big keynote speaker is Sarah Palin, with Michele Bachman speaking at lunch. Other confirmed speakers include the U.S. House GOP leadership’s resident wingnut, Marsha Blackburn (you do have to admit the Tea Party folks are very good at achieving gender parity in their panelists); Christian Right warhorses Rick Scarborough and Judge Roy Moore; and assorted conservative TV and radio gabbers.
It’s now becoming standard for hard-core conservative candidates in Republican primaries around the country to identify themselves closely with the Tea Party Movement. Nowhere is this more evident than in Florida, where Marco Rubio’s senate candidacy is a cause celebre for Tea Party folk everywhere. There’s a long profile of the Rubio-Crist race by Mark Liebovich in this weekend’s New York Times Magazine that gives the distinct impression that Crist is a goner and Rubio’s about to become a maximum national conservative celebrity. And although there will be elements of the Tea Party movement who want to remain independent, the temptation of an opportunity to conquer, or at least intimidate into submission, one of the two major parties may prove irresistable.
UPDATE: The intrepid David Wiegel reports some conservative grumbling about the cost of this event–$549 for registration, and $349 just to attend the Palin speech–and Palin’s own rumored speaking fee of somewhere between $50,000 and $100,000. Sure, big-name pols often command that much or a lot more for speeches, but it’s not what you’d want to charge to a grassroots activist group if you were thinking about running for president with their support. More generally, this kind of money-grubbing could undermine the legitimacy of the event.

2 comments on “Tea Party Convention: Third Force or Takeover Bid?

  1. Bernie Latham on

    Dick Armey was interview on NPR yesterday and this question was put to him squarely.
    He had to do a bit of a dance here not merely because he found it necessary to use the term “grassroots” in every sentence but because he understands two fundamentals: 1) many of the people he’s trying to influence do not trust the GOP to actually do the “fiscal conservatism” thing and 2) because he is acutely aware (as is Gingrich, Norquist and related others) that electoral disaster will predictably follow a vital break-away party. Armey repeatedly stressed that tea-party people can get desired policies via the GOP but never via the Dems.
    It seems pretty certain to me that Armey (and the corporate interests which he is paid handsomely to represent) hold electoral success as the most fundamental and necessary objective. All else fails without it. So I suppose the real question is whether or not the monster they have set to creating (in part, I’m sure, to gather in the passionate Ron Paul people) will prove to be manipulatable in the manner they hope.

  2. Captain Dan on

    The result of the tea party movement could conceivably be the same as New York’s 23rd congressional district special election, 2009, in which moderate Republicans vote for the Democratic Party candidate to help defeat the lunatic fringe.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.