Pouring the Tea into the GOP

“I want you to infiltrate the Republican Party.”

So said an August speaker at a meeting of the North Metro Tea Party in the Twin Cities. Such a charge is hardly noteworthy in and of itself. It has long been the goal of many within the Tea Party to affect public policy. Doing that requires electing public servants committed to the movement’s principles. Electing candidates is a function of political parties, and the Republican Party is an obvious place to start.

However, this speaker was no Tea Partier. This was Tony Sutton, the sitting chair of the Republican Party of Minnesota. For those in attendance, his invitation was shocking.

The assumption among Tea Partiers has often been that anyone established enough to chair a state party would view the Tea Party as a threat. That assumption was fostered at a RightOnline breakout session held in Minneapolis earlier this year. RedState’s ColdWarrior was among the panelists encouraging conservative activists to focus on becoming precinct committeemen and shift the GOP from an ideologically divided party to a decisively conservative one.

[Republicans] are terrified that you’re going to do this. They do not want the word to get out… They may say something like, “You’ve got to get involved in the political process.” To some people, that means sending a check to the Republican National Committee and getting an embossed card back with your name on it. Sorry but that’s not being involved in the Republican Party.

They want your money. They want you to make phone calls. But they don’t want you to become a voting member of the party, because you might be able to elect better leaders and get rid of them....

Regardless of motive, leaders of the Republican Party of Minnesota (MNGOP) have reached out to Tea Partiers and invited them to attend the caucus in 2012. Tea Party groups in the state had already been planning for caucus night. However, they had done so anticipating a hostile reception.

Now it seems the welcome wagon has been rolled out. Since Sutton’s visit to the North Metro Tea Party, an invitation was extended to select activists to panel a breakout session at the recently concluded Republican Midwest Leadership Conference (MLC). This author was among those activists.

Such carousing with the political establishment has generated controversy in both camps. Many Tea Party activists are concerned that the Republicans are trying to co-opt the movement. Many Republicans are concerned that the Tea Party is politically toxic. The objective of the MLC breakout session was to assuage these concerns by demonstrating the distinct yet complimentary nature of both groups.