Four years ago, CNBC’s Rick Santelli went into an angry tirade on the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade in which he called for a tea party resurgence. ”We’re thinking of having a Chicago tea party in July,” he said. “All you capitalists that want to show up to Lake Michigan, I’m going to start organizing.”
Santelli’s rant turned out to be more talk than action, but it helped give birth to the Tea Party groups that grew in 2009 and took over the Republican primary process 2010.
Today, the tea is weaker, but refusing to back down despite the strongest efforts from the GOP establishment and even the rejection from voters. A recent poll found only three in ten Americans have a favorable view of the Tea Party, and half of all respondents saying they have a negative view of the party. The number who consider themselves tea party members? Down to only 8%.
GOP mastermind Karl Rove has even launched his own superPAC, the Conservative Victory Project, to help take down the “Christine O’Donnell’s” of the party.
But on this fourth anniversary of the “spark” that launched the movement, the tea party big wigs seem unwilling to cede their claim on the Republican party.
The Tea Party Patriots released a fundraising letter just today using Rove’s image and his recent attacks to inspire donors to contribute to their new campaigns. “Over just that last few weeks “Republicans” like Rove have called Tea Party members ’racists,’ ‘bigots,’ ‘paranoid’ and even political ‘underbrush.’”
Another Tea Party group is offering a $10,000 prize to the grassroots tea party supporter who can come up with the plan to “takeover the Republican party.”
Top dogs like Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck are back in the limelight too. After a long hibernation and an ousting from Fox News, self-proclaimed “mama grizzly” Palin will be a featured speaker again at CPAC this year. Meanwhile, Beck says the GOP establishment is on the verge of becoming the Whig Party. “I am sure that the Republicans will become less and less relevant as every day that goes by,” he said to Bill O”Reilly. “They’re becoming - if they’re not already - the Whig Party.”
He added, “The Republicans are the ones that have been saying that we need to become more moderate. More moderate? Are you kidding me?”
Mainstream Republicans may want to shun the Tea Party, but it’s unclear whether they’ll be able to wrestle control away from the extreme elements of their party.