Two hundred and thirty-six years after a group of angry Bostonians dressed up as Native Americans so they wouldn’t get caught taking on the establishment, the Republican Party donned the mantle of the Tea Party movement, in hopes that they won’t get caught next year looking like Dede Scozzafava.
“Never has there been a moment like this in our history,” RNC chair Michael Steele told Hill staffers and Republican party activists munching pizza and sipping iced tea (without irony) at the RNC headquarters today. “Except one time before,” he added before telling the tale of the Boston Tea Party.
Steele raised his own cup of tea before promising to “stand in solidarity” with the tea partiers on health care reform. “I salute you,” he said.Though it lacked the size, enthusiasm and racially-questionable signage of its real-life counterpart, Steele’s “RNC Tea Party” was all about embracing the ideals of a growing conservative movement that’s often been as focused on slamming the GOP as it has on attacking Democrats. There were even official GOP tea bags given out with “Listen to Me!” signs stapled to them. Interestingly, though, the party lacked most of the big Republican names the tea partiers usually turn to at their rallies. Michele Bachmann and Jim DeMint were nowhere to be found.
The event was focused on health care reform, which Steele said Democrats have moved forward in the “dead of night,” over the objections of his new friends, the tea partiers. Much of the rhetoric was similiar to Steele’s “Listen To Me” press conference Tuesday, but this time there was little talk of Democrats. It was all about praising the tea partiers.
“It’s time for you to fight,” he said to the gathered Republicans, referring to the Democratic reforms. “It’s time for you to push back.”
But after the speech, Steele told TPMDC that the effort goes beyond health care and that tea partiers should know their friends are in the GOP.
“I think we are a natural home,” Steele said. He acknowledged the tea partier’s complaints with the Republicans and he promised that the party would work hard to keep its loudest constituents happy. Steele said he offered a “mea culpa” to tea partiers since the beginning of this term, agreeing with them that the party had abandoned its conservative “principles.”
But that’s all over now, Steele said. Tea is the party’s drink now. “We are moving back, head first, in that direction,” he said. “Because that’s where we should be.”