The tea partiers, and their protests, haven't gone away just because Tax Day has come and gone. But with every passing week, the Republican establishment makes a greater effort to co-opt a movement that was originally more libertarian (even anti-GOP) in nature. Thursday night, two Republican governors held a tea party of their own, this one by conference call.
The two men who hosted the call, Gov. Rick Perry of Texas and Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina, do at least have some credibility with the movement, or at least that segment of it that doesn't mind being subsumed by the Republican Party.
Perry's bolstered his tea partying credentials lately by endorsing a resolution in his state legislature that reasserts Texas' "sovereignty" vis-à-vis the federal government and then by discussing secession as a legitimate prospect for his state to consider down the line. And Sanford -- who is rumored to be eyeing a 2012 presidential run as a conservative candidate -- has made himself into one of the GOP's most vocal opponents of the stimulus.
But though they paid plenty of lip service to tea parties and tea partiers during the call, Thursday night was really about fundraising for the Republican Governors Association, which sponsored the teleconference. A third man, who played emcee, continually reminded those on the line that they could, by pressing *0, donate to the RGA. And by setting up the call so that participants had to sign up in advance, providing their phone numbers and e-mail addresses, the RGA assured itself a list of people it can go to later for money and other kinds of support. They even took an idea that the Obama campaign used to great success last year, asking those on the call to text a message to a special number, and thereby collecting even more personal information for later use.
The call also remained free from some of the more radical sentiments that had filtered into the actual tea parties on Tax Day. Both Sanford and Perry studiously avoided saying anything remotely controversial -- Perry even dodged a question about secession.