According to the New York Times, the “Tea Party” activists are actively working to take over the Republican Party at the grassroots level.
Across the country, they are signing up to be Republican precinct leaders, a position so low-level that it often remains vacant, but which comes with the ability to vote for the party executives who endorse candidates, approve platforms and decide where the party spends money.
A new group called the National Precinct Alliance says it has a coordinator in nearly every state to recruit Tea Party activists to fill the positions and has already swelled the number of like-minded members in Republican Party committees in Arizona and Nevada. Its mantra is this: take the precinct, take the state, take the party — and force it to nominate conservatives rather than people they see as liberals in Republican clothing….
In some recent polls, a hypothetical Tea Party wins more support than Democrats or Republicans, and the most anti-establishment Tea Party activists push to fight as a third party. But as the movement looks toward the midterm elections in November, a growing number of activists argue that the best way to translate anger into influence is to infiltrate the Republican establishment (Democrats being, for the average Tea Partier, beyond redemption).
This can work. Grass-roots politics rewards the highly motivated, and What’s the Matter with Kansas? – both book and movie – document how the right wing took over the Kansas Republican Party by mobilizing legions of Pro-Life activists after the huge success of 1991′s “Summer of Mercy” campaign.
So the question is – how will this effect the next round of elections? Will the activists energize Republicans to come back to power – or will their extremism destroy the party, possibly causing it to splinter?