The first ever National Tea Party Convention, being held in Nashville on Saturday night, will feature Sarah Palin as the keynote speaker. The convention itself is aimed at creating more credibility for the Tea Party movement before the upcoming elections. According to a New York Times article by Kate Zernike, the movement’s goal is “electing a conservative Congress in 2010 and a conservative president in 2012.” To aid in achieving this goalthe movement will raise money for conservative candidates, implement new technologies to increase support, and recruit viable candidates.
According to Zernike, the movement itself is certainly trying to become more of a “serious political force.” She writes what organizers said: “anyone ‘looking too crazy’ would have been tossed out.” The convention seems to be rather low-key compared to the protests for which the Tea Party is known.
Many Tea Party members are glad to have Palin speaking at the event. One supporter called her “the Tea Party’s inspiration.”Palin wrote an opinion piece in USA Today in which she stated, “I look forward to meeting many Americans who share a commitment to limited government, common sense and personal responsibility…The soul of the Tea Party is the people who belong to it — everyday Americans.”
While Palin’s presence might seem like a legitimizing force, some members of the movement are upset with some of Palin’s actions. According to an article by Tony Allen-Mills of The London Times, Palin plans to campaign in Arizona for Senator John McCain who will be challenged by JD Hayworth, a strong Tea Party candidate. She is also supporting Governor Rick Perry in Texas, who will be facing a Tea Party candidate as well. Palin’s support of these non-Tea Party candidates has drawn heavy criticism from members of the Tea Party movement who wish to see her solidly on their side.
Allen-Mills also brought up the question of whether or not Palin could be preparing to launch a 2012 run at the White House with the Republican Party or if she could be considering an Independent bid with support from the Tea Party. By supporting party moderate John McCain, Palin is showing that she clearly wants to remain favored in the Republican Party so that she can possibly run in 2012. If she were going to run as an independent with support from the Tea Party, she would have to become the leader of the party right now, during its beginning organizational stage. This would require buying into the party completely and no longer supporting moderates like McCain or non Tea Party members like Perry. But Palin knows how risky a move like this would be, because the Tea Party could end up supporting an actual Republican candidate, not an independent candidate who most certainly will not win. This all assumes, of course, that Palin is planning to run in 2012 .