GOP Pols Losing Control Of Tea Party Movement?

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Thousands of right-wing activists across this country rang in the Independence Day holiday with yet another round of tea-party protests against President Obama, inadvertently highlighting an interesting divide in the Republican Party. On the one hand are the hard-line activists who attend these things, versus the more mainstream politicians who want to win elections and are looking for their votes — and are running into all manner of conflicts as a result, or finding themselves taking on some rather interesting policy stances along the way.

Most notably, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), who is chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, was booed at the event in Austin — on the grounds that he’s part of the problem in Washington, having voted for the Wall St. bailout last fall. “I’m not part of Washington,” Cornyn said in his own defense. “I happen to work there, but on behalf of Texas, and I can vote ‘no’ on these reckless spending bills, on the refusal to cut taxes.”

Gov. Rick Perry — who famously seemed to raise the specter of Texas seceding from the union during the April Tax Day protests — was also booed at the same Austin event as Cornyn. Attendees saw him as yet another tax-hiking tyrant, because he supports toll roads in order to relieve traffic congestion.

The Dallas tea party also attracted some interesting folks in the crowd, as the Dallas Morning News reports:

Katie Vandermeer and her family, including her husband and four children, were sitting under a pop-up tent they brought to the ranch. She heard about the tea party through the Texas Nationalist Movement, which advocates Texas’ secession from the U.S.

In Bemidji, Minnesota, a headline speaker for their “Freedom Over Socialism” rally was state Rep. Mary Seifert, one of the leading Republican candidates for Governor, who warned of government taking away everyone’s personal freedom: “Now suddenly we tell you that you have to wear your seat belts or someone is gong to come racing down the road and fine you.” Another speaker, former state legislative candidate John Carlson, spoke favorably of the Articles of Confederation.

The tea party in Columbia, South Carolina, featured Sen. Jim DeMint and state Rep. Nikki Haley, a leading Republican candidate for Governor. One prominent person was missing, though: Gov. Mark Sanford, who had previously headlined a Tax Day tea party back in April.

The tea party in Boiling Springs, South Carolina, featured a colorful cast of characters. The headline speaker was Alan Keyes, who has been a leading name of the “Birther” movement. Lead organizer Michael Brady came dressed up as Thomas Paine — who in real life was a left-winger in favor of progressive taxation and opposed to traditional religion. One attendee took out a flyer that said, “Zelaya today, Obama tomorrow,” but said he was advocating impeachment of Obama after he was asked directly whether he was in favor of a coup.

At the event in Los Angeles, right-wing former Saturday Night Live actress Victoria Jackson — who has previously called Barack Obama a Muslim and a communist — called for the President’s impeachment, “There, I said it,” and did a handstand dedicated to our men and women in uniform. As Chris Erskine of the Los Angeles Times writes: “But Victoria Jackson held that handstand for, like, almost a minute — strong and proud. In my book, that’s worth 10 bucks alone.”

(Cornyn video via The Huffington Post.)

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