Though many identify the tea party movement with the GOP, third party and independent activists have had a strong role in the various tea party groups from the very beginning. TPM Muckraker reports on the split within the tea party movement between those who seek accommodation with the Republican Party and those seeking independent and third party alternatives to the two-party political status quo:
Knapp, who lives in Sacramento, California, helped form a local group that organized a well-attended event on Tax Day last April. But around May, something unexpected happened: Locally-based Republican party strategists started coming to the group’s meetings. That alarmed Knapp and many of his fellow activists, who were motivated in large part by a deep suspicion of both major parties. “I said, ‘what the fuck are you doing here?'” the blunt-spoken Knapp told TPMmuckraker. . . .
Eight months later, the philosophical divide that roiled Knapp’s Sacramento-based group is being replayed on a national scale . . . and the issue is creating turmoil in Tea Party circles across the country. “I think what we have in the movement is the GOP trying to take control, and a lot of the groups are trying to fight them on this,” Robin Stublen, a Tea Party Patriots (TPP) volunteer, told TPMmuckraker recently. . .
But many of the rank-and-file Tea Partiers whose energy helped launch the movement last spring — and among whom a more libertarian ideology often prevails — remain deeply wary of getting into bed with the GOP. And lately, they’ve started speaking out.
In an impassioned cri de coeur that reverberated around the movement last week, Kevin Smith, a Nashville activist who had worked with Tea Party Nation, denounced the organizer of the national convention as a patsy for the GOP. “What began as cries for true liberty and a public showing of frustration with the big government policies of both Democrats and Republicans,” Smith lamented, “has now been co-opted by mainstream Republican demagogues determined to use this as their 2010 election platform.” . . .
As for Knapp, he said he’s now working with some of the disaffected Tea Partiers from Tea Party Nation to start building a nationwide third party movement based on Tea Party principles — with no ties whatsoever to the Republican party. And he denounced his fellow Tea Partiers who have tried to work with Republicans. “They’re living in Disney Land,” he said, “if they think they can reform the GOP.”