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Tea Parties R Us

January 5, 2010

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele is taking to the airwaves this week to promote his new book. But while he claims to offer a new blueprint for a GOP he claims "screwed up" after Ronald Reagan, his colleagues on Capitol Hill already have a solution to the Republicans' identity crisis: Tea Parties R Us.
For the likes of Jim Demint (R-SC) and Michele Bachmann (R-MN), the repackaged rage and seething hatred that has continued uninterrupted from the McCain campaign is the new GOP. In early December, Senator Demint argued, "The GOP leadership needs to stand up for mainstream American principles" before concluding:

"We need to stop looking at the tea parties as separate from the Republican party."

Bachmann, a Tea Party enabler whose seat may disappear as an ironic result of the 2010 Census, seconded that emotion when advocating a GOP's strategy for next year's midterm elections:

"Well, it's embrace the tea party movement with full arms...If you look at the two parties, Democrat and Republican, there's no question that the heartbeat of the tea party movement would be more in line with the mission state of the Republican party certainly than that of the Democrat party. So if the Republican Party is wise, they will allow themselves to be re-defined by the tea party movement. And I hope that that will be the case."

That hope is shared by the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC). Facing a shortage of cash and some poll numbers suggesting that the "Tea Party" is more popular than the Republican Party itself, the NRCC's executive director Guy Harrison fawned over the frothing-at-the-mouth Tea Baggers:

"We love the tea party movement. We know the tea party movement is a group of people that Republicans are going to have to actively work with them and get them involved in their campaigns, and we have to have an agenda that brings them to our side."

Of course, the Tea Party faithful were already on their side. Long before President Obama as promised delivered the tax cuts they now decry, today's Tea Baggers were calling Senator Obama a socialist Muslim and demanding his birth certificate at McCain/Palin rallies across America.
Just take a look back at Alexandra Pelosi's documentary of the 2008 campaign, "Right America: Feeling Wronged." Clips from "Right America" are virtually indistinguishable from, say, the "trailer" making the rounds for a supposed film about the Tea Party movement called "Fraud." Let's go to the videotape: "Tea Baggers 2009" is just a sequel to the "McCain-Palin Mob," and a bad one at that. As The DailyShow's Jon Stewart summed up the right-wing's perpetual fury:

"I think you might be confusing tyranny with losing."

While the Tea Parties have been co-opted by the likes of Dick Armey and Fox News, analysts and pundits from The Hill and David Brooks warn of the "tea party effect" which "will dominate the Republican Party." But as their movement is torn by internal strife even as they try to mount a national strike, Tea Baggers share at least one thing in common with the Republican Party they now dominate. As one McCain supporter put it before the November 2008 election:

"We all hate the same things."

UPDATE: Almost on cue, Michael Steele told Fox News' Neil Cavuto, "As I like to tell people -- long before there was this big push on tea parties -- if I wasn't doing this job, I'd be out there with the tea partiers."

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Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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