A different kind of ‘Tea Party’

A DIFFERENT KIND OF ‘TEA PARTY’…. For the better part of the year, talk of a right wing “Tea Party” has referred to gathering of far-right activists, protesting … whatever it is the right is so worked up about at the time.

In Florida, it’s taken on a different kind of meaning.

A Florida conservative has registered an official “Tea Party” with the office of the Secretary of State, and is promising to run candidates against Republicans and Democrats in state and national races.

“The current system has become mired in the sludge of special interest money that seeks to control the leadership of both parties. It’s time for real change,” says Orlando lawyer Frederic O’Neal, the new party’s chairman, who couldn’t be reached immediately by phone, in a press release.

A spokeswoman for the Florida Secretary of State, Jennifer Davis, said the party had registered in August, and that its qualified candidates will appear on the ballot in the state.

As Chris Harris noted, “Republican lawmakers sensed they had a natural ally in the fight for Republican principles in opposition to President Obama’s agenda. They were half right. While tea partiers are fervent opponents of Democrats, they feel no allegiance to the Republican Party. In fact, they’re now one of its competitors.”

Whether this amounts to much remains to be seen. Florida, like most states, has all kinds of minor parties that run candidates for various offices, but who have no meaningful impact on the electoral process. An Orlando lawyer can file the paperwork to start a new political party, but creating the infrastructure for a functional, effective political entity is extremely difficult — especially when there’s no larger, national party to help pull things together.

For that matter, even if other official Tea Parties were to spring up elsewhere, it’s likely they could just endorse Republican Party candidates, rather than run candidates of their own.

But there’s at least the potential for political relevance here. And if this were to catch on — a big “if,” to be sure — it would signal a fairly significant problem for Republicans: how to keep a far-right party from losing even-further-right activists.