When GOP activists met in New Orleans for the Southern Republican Leadership Conference, many of the delegates were also active Tea Party members. That doesn’t make the Tea Party “Republican” - in fact at the Tea Party event last Saturday at the Mississippi Fair Grounds in Jackson, there were Democrats and independents as well as Republicans present, including some of the speakers. It also doesn’t make the GOP part of the “Tea Party” - many Republicans in New Orleans were not active in that grassroots organization. But the overlap comes from the conservative coalition that embraces both, something Governor Haley Barbour mentioned when speaking.
Barbour continued, “How do we win in 2010? We stick together. We work. We organize. We campaign. We give. Some of you will even run for public office and we welcome every single one of you. Conservative unity has to be part of that conservative energy. The Democrats’ fondest hope is to see Tea Party or other conservatives split off and form a third party. Barack Obama has worn out three sets of kneepads down on his knees praying for the conservative vote to be split in 2010, and we can’t let that happen.”
Praising the Tea Party in Mississippi, Barbour told delegates they should welcome the Tea Party, independents, former Republicans, and even Democrats who “think like us; believe like us.” He said it is fine if someone who has never been involved defeats a Republican incumbent for Congress in the primary: “that person becomes our guy, our candidate.”
“We cannot let ourselves be torn apart by the idea of purity. In a two party system, both parties are necessarily coalitions,” said Barbour who quoted his “old boss Ronald Reagan” as saying, “someone who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and ally, not some kind of 20 percent traitor.”
I wrote about the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in my column last week and took a look at the first year of the Tea Party movement in my column this week. You can read both at the Madison County Journal online: Perry / Barbour calls GOP to unity and Perry / Tea Partiers celebrate year