Monday, December 14, 2009

Splits in the Tea Party Movement

Summary: Will the feuds between Tea Party factions make it a less-effective movement?

An interesting article in the Huffington Post on Friday finds that there appears to be a feud between two or more Tea Party factions.

It all began when a co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots - Amy Kremer - decided to join a group called the Tea Party Express, a project of the Our Country Deserves Better PAC which helps conservative Republican candidates. As the Washington Independent reports, “several leaders in the [Tea Party Patriots]…stressed to Kremer…working with [the Tea Party Express] could imperil the tax status of non-profit Tea Party Patriots.”

Since then there has been a deep and sometimes dirty infighting between factions of the movement. From the Washington Independent article:

Kremer turned down the advice and took the plunge, signing up for the Tea Party Express’s next tour. On September 27 she was removed from the board of Tea Party Patriots. She responded by locking the Tea Party Patriots email account, a problem that the other members of the group quickly solved, but one that rankled.

Since then, several local Tea Party Patriot organizations have been blasting the Tea Party Express. Other groups have been thrown into the mix as well. The Tea Party Patriots have even sued Kremer since the split.

The factions appear to be arguing over two points: partisan funding and astroturfing. It seems that the on-the-ground activists are becoming increasing disillusioned by the true nature of their organizations - namely that they are all funded by big business and are beholden to the strategies implemented by Republican consultants.

And to be sure, there are no less than eight different organizations that make up the Tea Party movement. Among them are the Tea Party Patriots, Tea Party Express, Americans for Prosperity, FreedomWorks, the American Liberty Alliance, and the Sam Adams Alliance. They all have a lot in common, namely they’re all connected in one way or another and several are heavily funded by Koch Industries, who we mentioned on this topic in a previous post.

A couple of thoughts about this development:

1) This demonstrates a key point we made about what Republican candidates want to do for their 2010 campaigns - steer clear of special interests for a little while.

As we said in a post last month:

PACs bring in a lot of money, which is always valuable, but if there’s one thing that could lose confidence in the Tea Partiers, it’s special interest money. Simply put, the Tea Parties are part of a larger populist backlash to the bailouts and lobbyists who secure grants under the stimulus bill. If your war chest is found to be connected to a banking firm or any other Wall Street group, it could hinder the confidence the base has in you.

This certainly seems to be the case with the on-the-ground Tea Party activists - they won’t even trust their own organizations to steer clear of the Washington beltway elite and special interests. So it’s important that Republican candidates avoid associating with PAC money in order to keep up support from the base.

2) All fringe groups seem to have inner-feuding problems. Infighting is actually a fairly typical phenomenon with all political organizations, but it’s especially contentious within far-right or far-left groups, as we discovered when researching Marxists and Nazis in last year’s “Know Your Third Parties” series.

Granted, the Tea Party folks aren’t quite as extreme as Marxists or Nazis, nor are they as obscure to the larger American politic (at least for now), but this split may very well slow down the anti-Obama backlash they were fostering earlier this summer.

1 comment:

Ben Masel said...

Libertarian Party activist were a big initial part of the Tea Party base, now mostly (except those who were Republican moles) turned off, when they found only Republicans on the speakers' lineups at the events.