"We're thinking about having a Chicago Tea Party in July."
That was the first reference to a Tea Party, uttered by CNBC Editor Rick Santelli during an on-air rant against a homeowner bailout bill last February. In the next twelve months, frustrated Americans from all over the country churned out to oppose the drastic left-turn the government took under President Obama.
Notable and extremely large protests occurred on April 15th and July 4th, and in August the Tea Parties swarmed healthcare town halls and delivered a surprise setback to Obama's plans.
Since then, the non-partisan movement's been fractured by factions moving in different directions. The Tea Party Patriots, Tea Party Express, Tea Party Network, Campaign for Liberty, FreedomWorks, the 9/12 Project, etc., all are pulling in different directions, and no clear leader has emerged, although Ron Paul, Sarah Palin, and Glenn Beck are the three people most closely associated with the movement.
The factions are so similar that activists belong to multiple groups. An anniversary celebration that will take place in Thousand Oaks this Saturday afternoon is organized by people who are associated with the Tea Party Patriots, Campaign for Liberty, and the 9/12 Project.
But despite the similarities, the differences are significant enough to present severe rifts that threaten to derail the Tea Party's momentum. And that's without even addressing the relationship with the Republican establishment.
Initially, many in the GOP recoiled from working with the "fringe amateurs,", despite accusations from confused Democrats that they controlled the Tea Party. After the amateurs demonstrated their power by stalling healthcare legislation and knocking out a liberal Republican candidate in a high profile race in New York, the GOP warmed up a little.
Republicans and Tea Partiers joined hands for a Scott Brown victory in Massachusetts. In Los Angeles, the GOP is meeting with Tea Party leaders for a joint summit to discuss working together in 2010.
A synthesis of the two groups is the best thing that can happen for the country. The Republican Party has the organization, money, and the electoral know-how. The Tea Party has the manpower, enthusiasm, and ideological purity. One is the rocket, the other is the rocket fuel. If both work together, great heights can be achieved.