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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Tempest in Tea Party Pots

Up until yesterday, disgruntlement with the National Tea Party Convention set for Nashville next month was largely limited to scattered grumbling about the registration fee, though underneath the surface, there were all sorts of subcurrents involving hopes or fears that the convention was leading the Tea Party Movement in this direction of a third party (hard to understand, given the dominance of the Convention’s speakers’ list by Republican pols).
But then one of the Republican Right’s most influential new figures, RedState’s Erick Erickson, weighed in with a post not only criticizing the Nashville event, but the Tea Party Movement as a whole, and also firing a shot across the bow of Sarah Palin for good measure:

I have asked several of the tea party organizations that, early on, I was supportive of to stop using my name and RedState’s logo. I think the tea party movement has largely descended into ego and quest for purpose for individuals at the expense of what the tea party movement started out to be.
That’s not to say it is in every case. I have much good to say about groups like Tea Party Patriots, but I think this national tea party convention smells scammy….
Sarah Palin is certainly giving the National Tea Party Convention legitimacy. But at what cost? I am fearful this thing will blow up and harm her. I am more fearful that a bunch of well meaning people from across the nation are going to show up, expect more, and then grow disaffected or burn out when the deliverables they expect do not come in.

In all the criticism of the Nashville event, It’s hard from the outside to separate the legitimate concerns about a for-profit group “hijacking” the Tea Party Movement, and the political calculations going on about the relationship of said Movement with the Republican Party. A guy like Erickson is focused like a laser beam on a right-wing conquest of the GOP, and presumably wants Tea Party types to serve as junior coalition partners and shock troops in that effort, not as some independent force. But in any event, political journalists who so enjoy writing “Democrats in disarray!” stories ought to devote more attention to the apparent disarray in the Tea Party Movement.
UPDATE: Dave Weigel of the Washington Independent, who’s been doing the best work on this subject, reports that the Tea Party Convention is closing most of its proceedings from the press–including, it appears, Palin’s keynote address. Notwithstanding conservative paranoia about “the media,” this is a move guaranteed to stimulate even more skepticism about the event’s character.

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