Republican Teetotalers
02-18-2010
I have heard several conservatives (including Sarah Palin) say recently that the Republican Party should work to bring the tea party movement into its fold. This is where grassroots energy in the conservative base has been building (quite visibly) over the past year, and Republican institutional elites would no doubt like to harness it for electoral gain in the midterm elections. They know that the alternative poses a twofold danger for the GOP; tea party regulars could damage party-backed candidates in contested primaries, and/or tea party candidates could launch independent bids which siphon off votes from Republican candidates in the general election.
 
Progressives don’t see much difference between the two groups, tend to lump them together anyway, and see this primarily as a factional issue within the GOP. Party fragmentation is certainly a concern for Republicans, as the tea party movement is not as monolithic as one might think. Competing groups laying claim to the tea party mantle have real differences over whether to focus the movement solely on fiscal matters, or include social and cultural issues, and over whether to work from within the Republican Party’s infrastructure, or outside it as an independent party. The GOP’s ability to co-opt these relationships will go a long way toward determining its relative success in the current anti-incumbent electoral environment, and institutional elites in the party seem to know it.


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