To anxious Republicans trying to channel grass-roots conservatism, the Congressional Tea Party Caucus is part of the solution. To many in the tea party, the caucus seems like part of the problem.
Instead of embracing the caucus and its 49 House members, many tea party activists see it as yet another effort by the GOP to hijack their movement — and symptomatic of a party establishment that, they say, is condescending and out of step with their brand of conservatism.
At a news conference after the caucus’s first weekly meeting July 21, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), flanked by about a dozen tea party activists, stressed that it was not an effort to control or speak for the movement but, rather, to be “a listening ear to the tea party and nothing more.”
Yet since her hasty formation of the caucus in the days before that meeting, the e-mail listservs, blogs and conference calls that constitute the tea party movement’s nervous system have buzzed with criticism of the caucus.