Brewing tensions between the Tea Party and GOP
(By Nick Carey, Ed Stoddard and David Morgan
...Interviews with Tea Partiers across the country paint a picture of a genuine, amorphous, conservative grassroots movement united by three core principles: constitutionally limited government, free market ideology and low taxes. The American Constitution is a rallying cry and many now dub themselves "constitutional conservatives."
They are angry not just at what they describe as the socialist policies of U.S. President Barack Obama. They also feel Republican politicians have betrayed the party's ideals. For many in the movement, purging the party of moderate Republicans is a major goal.
"I used to be a dyed-in-the-wool Republican. Now if we have a Republican lined up to come to our meetings, I don't even want to go," said Nate Friedl, 41, a member of the Rock River Patriots, a Tea Party group in southern Wisconsin.
Following a first year marked by protests, the movement is evolving. The political novices of a year ago are forming coalitions and learning how to change things from the ground up.
After rallying against government bailouts and Obama's healthcare reforms, as well as mobilizing the vote for key electoral races such as Republican Scott Brown's victory in Massachusetts in January, many Tea Partiers feel empowered.
"Tea Party people have realized that you cannot change the system by protesting on the outside," said Richard Viguerie, author of 'Conservatives Betrayed: How George W. Bush and Other Big Government Republicans Hijacked the Conservative Cause.'
The movement is also debating whether to remain independent -- or stage a conservative takeover of the Republican Party. And some, a tiny minority, favor becoming a third party.
"The two-party system is too ingrained in America," said Rod Merrill, head of the Ludington Tea Party in western Michigan. "Every time someone has tried to form a third party, it has failed."
An Ipsos/Reuters poll shows that although a majority of Democrats and a plurality of independents voters would support Tea Party candidates, less than one third of Republicans would support them as a third party.
Regardless of the debate's outcome, Tea Partiers are targeting not just prominent Democrats in the midterms but also key moderate Republicans like Charlie Crist in Florida and former presidential candidate John McCain in Arizona. United as never before by the internet and weekly conference calls, conservatives are eyeing a few "national" primary races...
Tea Partiers across the country recall a growing sense of anger well before presidential election night in 2008, as outgoing President George W. Bush helped prop up the teetering U.S. financial sector amid the worst downturn since the 1930s and issued emergency loans to struggling automakers General Motors and Chrysler. Under Obama, the government took stakes in both companies.
"I remember just screaming at the TV," said Tanya Bachand, 35, a trial lawyer and Connecticut state coordinator for the Tea Party Patriots. "I was frustrated long before Obama came along because of how much the government grew under Bush. To me Obama was like Bush, only much worse."...
The GOP and individual Republican candidates are actively seeking Tea Party endorsements and votes. "At every meeting we have, we see local and state representatives of the Republican Party counting heads and trying to drum up support from our members," said Nighta Davis, organizer of the North Georgia Patriots. "For six years the Republicans controlled Congress and the White House under Bush and they could have solved this country's problems. But they did nothing of the kind."
"Now they want to co-opt us," she added. "But they just don't get it."...
According to Gallup, conservatives went from 36 percent of the population in 1992 to 40 percent in 2009, while moderates slid from 43 percent to 36 percent.
Conservatives derisively call moderate Republicans RINOs -- Republican In Name Only. They are angry at moderates over issues like immigration and the cap and trade climate bill.
Joe Walsh, a Tea Party Republican who won the Republican primary for 8th U.S. congressional district in Illinois, said conservatives in his district are furious. "The biggest applause I get from audiences comes when I whack the Republicans over the head for doing the same thing as the Democrats," he said. "This year, party establishment support could be the kiss of death. What will matter this year is the support of the rank and file."
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