In the latest example of RNC Chair Michael Steele attempting to tie his party to the Tea Party movement, Steele rhetorically out tea-partied a movement leader, Dick Armey, on a conference call the two shared this morning.
“I’m tired of this congress thumbing their nose and flipping the bird at the people of this country,” Steele said during one of his many rants that sounded like it could have come from the podium at at tea party rally. He wielded the angry vehemence and promises to get revenge commonplace among tea partiers during the health care debate to set the stage for the GOP next year. “I intend to have my foot on the throat of the Democrats on this issue [health care reform],” Steele said.
For his part, Armey was the calmer one on the call, though welcomed Steele’s passion and told reporters that he has a “clear sense” that Steele “wants to lead the party back to being the the champion” of the values tea partiers hold dear.Armey called the GOP “quite capable of serving the cause of liberty.” He said that he and Steele have had conversations about how they can work together on health care reform, though he pushed back on claims that he was the leader of conservative protest movement.
“I’m not audacious enough to say I’m leading the tea party movement,” he said, calling himself one of many “grassroots activists” pushing the tea party movement forward. But as a former House Republican leader, Armey said he knew his former party could be the home for the tea party movement.
“I can say there’s not a place I can turn except for the Republican Party,” Armey said. He called for a return to the Reagan era when he says the GOP was focused on “liberty” and other tea party values.
It’s not clear that Armey’s supporters in the movement agree with him yet. Steele’s GOP has reached out to the tea partiers, but TPMDC’s conversations with the conservative protesters that have swarmed around Capitol Hill in the past few months as well as polling data suggest that the grassroots aren’t ready to support the party many feel has betrayed them in the past.