THE BLOG
03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Operation Steele/Armey: GOP, Tea Party Movement Co-Opt Each Other

Today Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele and Dick Armey, head of tea party support group FreedomWorks, held a joint conference call expressing their willingness to work together.

The call was held at 11am and included various members of the right-wing media. According to Politico:

The call is the first joint effort between Steele and the tea party movement -- which Republican candidates have been trying to court since the widespread anti-tax rallies in April that launched the populist uprising. "The two have connected on the matters of this health care bill," said an RNC source.

According to live-Tweeting from Dana Mozie of RockStarPolitics, the two spoke of how Congress had "flipped the bird" at the American people. Michael Steele also mentioned that "the fix is in" as far as health care is concerned. There was also talk about this morning's 1 am 60-40 vote for cloture on the bill being a cowardly move by Democrats. Armey ultimately said that no one can claim to be the leader of the Tea Party movement.

The implicit connection between the two groups is a new and distinctive development that stands in stark contrast to the Tea Party movement's prior aversion to the GOP. Eric Odom is a self-proclaimed founder of the modern Tea Party movement and an organizer of the Chicago Tax Day Tea Party, at which Michael Steele attempted to speak on tax day.

When Steele requested to address the event, however, Odom rebuffed him publicly, going so far as to post his response online. In regards to Steele, Odom wrote:

[I]t appears that he has only just decided to reach out after realizing how big the movement has gotten and how much media is now involved.

During the October ruckus surrounding the special election in NY-23, the GOP endorsed moderate Republican Dede Scozzafava while the Tea Party movement ran its own candidate, Doug Hoffman. Odom flew out to help coordinate the offensive, and even accused the GOP of open war against the Tea Party movement:

Not only is the NRCC going to waste donor dollars on a failed candidate with no hope of winning the race,they're also going to attack the actual conservative in the race! At this point, the only logical conclusion is that the NRCC (a huge hub of establishment consultants who leech off of donor money) and the rest of the old guard will arm itself for battle and wage war against the grassroots base rather than give it control.

Dick Armey himself stepped into the race, throwing the support of FreedomWorks behind Hoffman to such a degree that when Hoffman was interviewed by a local newspaper editorial board, Armey was seated right next to him. In fact Armey did Hoffman harm when, after Hoffman was asked about local issues, Armey dismissed the question, referring to such issues as "parochial" claiming this was an election about a national movement.

Scozzafava ended up dropping out of the race and supporting the Democrat, who was able to take a seat held by Republicans since Reconstruction thanks to the GOP and the Tea Party splitting the conservative vote.

Within two weeks of his movement's embarrassing loss, Odom's aggression was tempered. In a November 10 blog post entitled "It's Time to Take Over the GOP" Odom switched his strategy from something out of Rambo to something out of Aliens, seeing the GOP as a host to invade.

I know many of my fellow Tea Party activists are going to hate me for this, but it's time to face reality. The Republican Party must be our vessel in 2010...As a libertarian who voted for Bob Barr in 2008, I find it very difficult to state this in a public manner, but I will now be joining the Republican Party... I'm in no way advocating that we as a movement stand behind the existing Republican establishment. I am, rather, suggesting that we become the establishment... I know many of us in the movement have different goals. Some are to weaken the two party stronghold. This is understandable and a good long term goal... Love or hate the Republican Party... it's our only vessel in the short term. We either unify through it and make a stand strong enough to stop this madness in government, or we fracture over third party efforts and meet uncertain political demise.

Through his organization, American Liberty Alliance, Odom has worked with Armey and FreedomWorks since the spring, and has known Armey since at least 2007, when Odom organized a Conservative Leadership Conference at which Armey spoke. Both groups worked hand-in-glove to support Tax Day Tea Party rallies as well as town hall protests and marches on Washington. Now both organizations are working together to help plan the Tax Day 2010 protests, as well as a conference called the Patriot Caucus to follow immediately after tax day.

Eight months ago, Odom was chiding the GOP as johnny-come-lately tea-party crashers, calling out Steele specifically. Then Odom and Armey worked together against the GOP and Steele in trying to elect Doug Hoffman. Now Odom has capitulated and rejoined the GOP, while Armey and Steele are holding joint conference calls. As one snake bites into the tail of the other and vice-versa, it remains to be seen who will consume who.