Republicans are not their bag of tea

The Tea Party remains a complex, diverse and healthy grassroots political movement, despite Republican attempts to hijack it.

With regards to cumbersome government, bank bailouts and the national debt, the grassroots Tea Party movement is âÄúmad as hell,âÄù and it is finding voice. According to a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, 41 percent of Americans view the Tea Party favorably, more than either of the political parties. Democrats have thus far been dismissive. At a town hall meeting two weeks after April tax day protests, President Barack Obama chided them, âÄúletâÄôs not play games and pretend that the reason [for the deficit] is because of the Recovery Act.âÄù Other liberal democrats and media actors like Janeane Garofalo, Anderson Cooper and the Huffington Post have provided straw man rhetorical meat for opponents of the factional Tea Party movement, characterizing its supporters as ignorant racists. Of course, arithmetic demands that within a movement so large one will find a few idiots. But Republicans, stalled in the Dubya doldrums, sense opportunity. Limbaugh, Hannity and Beck have been quick to seize the momentum. Fox News, which the cognizant concluded years ago to be a Republican public relations apparatus, has eagerly covered the Tea Party, boosted protest attendance and tempered the purely anti-Obama elements within it. That casting proved essential to Scott Brown in Massachusetts, who rode to victory on a platform essentially composed of Obama obstructionism. This trend frustrates the Tea PartyâÄôs intellectual core, comprised of economically-conscious independents, libertarians and constitutionalists who distrust the Republican Party. According to Ron Paul, Republicans âÄútalk a good game, and then they get into office and spend like Democrats.âÄù Chad Peace, co-founder of the Tea Party and a key organizer in the 2007 rallies in support of the Texas Congressman, dubbed these Republican Tea Party cheerleaders âÄúpartisan political perverts.âÄù Well said, Peace. Against this backdrop, a spectacular Tea Party Convention kicked off today in Nashville, organized by husband-and-wife lawyers Judson and Sherry Phillips. Technically, the convention is hosted by Tea Party Nation, Inc., a for-profit company. Still all well and good (technically). Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin will give her televised keynote address on Saturday. The $500 convention price tag and the $349 Palin dinner reservation turned many activists off. Eric Odom of American Liberty Alliance, another key Tea Party founder, recently reversed his groupâÄôs decision to attend, citing financial concerns. Others argue that the event is a nationally-centralized, for-profit betrayal of grassroots, fiscally-conservative principles. The Tea Party is quickly becoming a viable third party; a CBS News poll earlier this winter found that 23 percent of Americans would vote for the Tea Party candidate for President, five points higher than the Republican. The threat of a burgeoning tea party likely played a role in President ObamaâÄôs recent move toward the political center and his overtures to angry anti-bank populists. The Tea Party, if it is to flourish, will have to reclaim ideological independence and cast off the suffocating gilt which Fox News and other Republican operatives have painted for it. Its supporters will have to take special aim at a long and developing history of Republican fiscal hypocrisy. For now, the establishment is winning the battle to brand the Tea Party. Shallow observers, like HuffPost, mark the infighting as the end of the American Tea Party. They miss the point: wide, disparate dissent is difficult to channel. America is witnessing the internal dynamism with which an organic political renaissance is inevitably born. John Brown welcomes comments at [email protected]