Even the Grand Ol' Party isn't conservative enough anymore. Everyone is abandoning ship.
February 3, 2010
By Jim Acosta, CNN
Take recession-raging conservatives and independents, add a Democrat to the White House, and you get the tea party.
And there's more brewing in this rebellion against bailouts and big government than just Scott Brown's Tea Party-infused upset in the Massachusetts Senate race.
"This was a major victory in what I would call the 2nd American Revolution," says Mark Meckler.
Mark Meckler and Jenny Beth Martin, founders of the “Tea Party Patriots,” want this movement to blow the lid off Capitol Hill in this year's elections.
They plan to back candidates who stand for tea party principles. It doesn't matter if it's a Republican or Democrat standing in the way.
“I think that if it had been John McCain the same thing would have happened. I truly believe it,” says Martin.
In one year, the Tea Party has gone viral – from dozens to now hundreds of loosely linked groups around the country. But Meckler and Martin don't tell them what to do. That's not the Tea Party way.
"It's all bottom up. I mean, the real deal is that there are millions of leaders out there leading this movement," says Meckler.
There may be leaders in the Tea Party movement, but nobody is in charge. Rival groups from Washington, D.C. to Sacramento, California are battling over who will carry the Tea Party banner. And that fight has some tea partiers feeling hung-over.
“I don't think the Tea Party knows what's happening to the Tea Party," says Jim Knapp.
Knapp, a Sacramento Tea Party activist, fears the movement is about to be hijacked by one of the established parties. "I don't think there's any question the GOP has their tentacles into the Tea Party," he says.
Knapp points to the “Tea Party Express," the conservative bus tour that crisscrossed the country last year. It's run right inside a Republican political consulting firm.
“I think what you'll find with a lot of the people at Tea Party rallies, many are Republicans themselves. Us included,” says Joe Wierzbicki, who runs the Tea Party Express.
After spending $350,000 to air pro-Scott Brown campaign ads, these Republican consultants argue the Tea Party's home is the GOP.
"The people who formed this movement need a major political party," says Wierzbicki.
The movement's future is on the agenda at the Tea Party's first convention, set for this week.
But, even with Tea Party favorite Sarah Palin headlining the convention, it's being boycotted by some Tea Party activists, scoffing at the $550 admission fee.
"It wasn't the kind of grassroots organization that we are. So we declined to participate," says Meckler.
Despite all that infighting, it's clear the Tea Party is on a roll. Where it rolls is anybody's guess.
The big question ahead for this movement is whether it evolves into a third political party. That idea is being advanced by tea partiers who are disgusted with the Republican Party. But GOP operatives point out that third political parties rarely win.
Click to view image: 'So grand and old it's dead.'
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