February 16th, 2010
09:58 PM ET
8 years ago

Steele appeases Tea Party activists in lengthy meeting

Michael Steele met privately with 50 Tea Party leaders in Washington on Tuesday.

Michael Steele met privately with 50 Tea Party leaders in Washington on Tuesday.

Washington (CNN) - An uneasy truce may have been reached between the Tea Party movement and the Republican Party after Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele spent nearly four hours Tuesday trying to calm the fears of Tea Party leaders who worry that the GOP is out to co-opt their grassroots energy ahead of the 2010 midterm elections.

Steele met with about 50 Tea Party leaders from grassroots organizations around the country in a lengthy bull session at the Capitol Hill Club, a cushy Republican meeting-spot located next to RNC headquarters.

The closed-door event, organized several weeks ago, was originally scheduled to last for one hour. But participants said the confab lasted well into the evening after the RNC chairman vowed to answer every question put forth by the activists who made the trip to Washington.

Participants said their primary goal was simply "to be heard" by the party establishment and to make clear to Steele that Tea Party activists want the national party to stay out of local races. Steele, they said, listened graciously throughout the meeting and promised to keep the lines of communication open.

"We believe in this meeting that we were heard," said Karin Hoffman of D.C. Works For Us, a Tea Party organization in South Florida. "It's the beginning of a relationship."

But Hoffman, who initiated the sit-down, cautioned that the Tea Party movement is an autonomous grassroots movement and will not "be absorbed into the RNC."

Indeed, when a group of participants were asked after the meeting if they consider themselves Republicans, nearly all shook their heads and boasted that they were "American citizens." Others said they knew of fellow Tea Party activists who refused to come to the meeting because they do not trust the Republican leadership.

Steele, however, won over many in the group when he pledged that the Republican Party will not to meddle in local races - especially GOP primaries featuring candidates backed by Tea Party activists. At one point in the meeting, the divisive Senate primary battle in Florida between Marco Rubio and Charlie Crist was mentioned. The chairman said the role of the national party is to back whoever becomes the Republican nominee.

"He is leaving it up to the people, and that's what we want," said Cheryl Couture, a member of the 9.12 Project from Naples, Florida. "We don't want people interfering with the process, because that's not American."

Greg Fettig of Noblesville, Indiana - the president of "Hoosier Patriots" - said Steele agreed with those in the meeting who griped that the Republican Party had abandoned its principles. "He admitted that Republicans from 1994, from that point until today, had strayed away from their Republican values," Fettig said.

Fettig said he asked the chairman if national Republicans had recruited former Sen. Dan Coats into the Indiana Senate race, which already featured several Republican candidates before Coats declared his candidacy earlier this month. Steele, he said, assured him that was not the case. Fettig said Tea Party activists in Indiana are "adamantly against" Coats' candidacy.

Representatives from the National Republican Congressional Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee - two party organizations that have backed their chosen Republican candidates in contested primaries - did not attend Tuesday's meeting.

Steele released a statement after the event thanking the members of the Tea Party movement who organized the meeting.

"We share a common purpose in stopping President Obama's agenda and standing up for principles such as smaller government, lower taxes, free enterprise, and the Constitution," Steele said. "Moving into the midterm elections this fall, I look forward to continuing to build on this discussion and to work to elect officials who will fight to protect the principles which they and a majority of Americans support."

Filed under: 2010 • Michael Steele • RNC • Tea Party movement
soundoff (35 Responses)
  1. Anonymous

    Birds of a feather say NO together.....Ugh.

    February 16, 2010 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  2. Linda

    Sarah Palin and Michael Steele would make an awesome ticket in 2012

    February 16, 2010 10:19 pm at 10:19 pm |
  3. carol

    "We share a common purpose in stopping President Obama's agenda ..."

    Well that's right for sure. It is obvious that the GOP does not want fix anything. Their only goal is to stop the Dems from doing anything to the detriment of the American people.

    stop Obama,stop Obama. That's right ,stop Obama from succeeding in any way so they can say he failed.
    sad,sad excuse for Americans!

    February 16, 2010 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  4. Ken in NC

    Steele appeases Tea Party activists in lengthy meeting

    Is that supposed to mean he knee jearked them for 4 hours or he just flat out lied to them for 4 hours?

    Either way you see it, if they beleived this guy they are in trouble.

    February 16, 2010 10:32 pm at 10:32 pm |
  5. Andy

    I know the left Dems will have something insulting to say,let me insure you Dems come November you do not need to worry about the GOP or Tea Party,You, Dems will be so out of the race you can not look back far enough to see either of these parties.

    February 16, 2010 10:36 pm at 10:36 pm |
  6. Candi

    At least we will still have a 2 party system,the GOP and the Tea Party,I believe by Nov. the Democrats will have fully self destructed.Guess they will still be blaming someone else for their implosion.

    February 16, 2010 10:38 pm at 10:38 pm |
  7. rick Atlanta

    I bet 99% of the people at these TEA party don't even know the real definition of Socialism... they cant rap their head around the Military, Postal service, Law Enforcement just to NAME a few!!!

    February 16, 2010 10:39 pm at 10:39 pm |
  8. Alex in Wisconsin

    Well I now expect that the completely grassroots and autonomous Tea Party will meet with members of the DNC.....ha ha ha, just playing, the difference between the RNC and the tea party movement is like the difference between dark red and maroon.

    February 16, 2010 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  9. Jake

    At least these 2 parties have plans and ideas.Understand economics and either could benefit us.On the other hand the Dems just do not get it,a real party of NO.NO jobs NO plans NO improvement NO hope NO change.Just a party of chronic wasteful spending.

    February 16, 2010 10:42 pm at 10:42 pm |
  10. mike d

    this is what we need in this country now....more hate, racism and contempt for those we disagree with. why can't these folks tone it down and talk in a measured tone? we can agree to disagree in a civil tone. we are listening.

    February 16, 2010 10:44 pm at 10:44 pm |
  11. Jason

    Ok, so then what is the Tea Party? They're another Libertarian Party... enemies on both sides of the aisle, and the only way to get one of your people elected is you have to run them under one of the existing party tickets. So, Tea Party representatives will be another radical voice in Congress, like Ron Paul is today, and nothing more than a joke to everyone else. The future of this "movement" is written to what it should be... nothing.

    February 16, 2010 10:48 pm at 10:48 pm |
  12. elsie

    A day late and a dollar short. The Tea Party movement was engineered by GOP activists and their corporate buddies to begin with. Folks, you're being taken for a ride. They came for the evangelicals, and now they're coming for the libertarians.

    February 16, 2010 10:48 pm at 10:48 pm |
  13. Perusing-through

    STEELE IS A FOOL . . .
    . . . if he thinks he can control the Tea Party.

    For the RNC to control the Tea Party would be like the Three Stooges trying to herd cats. It ain't happening.

    February 16, 2010 10:49 pm at 10:49 pm |
  14. m smith

    How much will it cost you to be grass roots????

    February 16, 2010 11:02 pm at 11:02 pm |
  15. Emma

    Don't worry Tea Party..you won't be "absorbed by the RNC"

    The RNC will just use you until the elections in November and spit you out and forget about you like everybody else until next election cycle.

    February 16, 2010 11:06 pm at 11:06 pm |
  16. Carl

    WAs there a difference between the two parties? All the guest speakers for the Tea Party are Republicans. I do not see any Independants candidates or speakers represented at Tea Party organizations.

    February 16, 2010 11:08 pm at 11:08 pm |
  17. Albert R. K. . L.A., CA

    The Tea Party just got sucked in by the Partybehind the global corporate economy who is at war with middle class America. Smaller government, = less law enforcement on Wall Street, lower taxes = more profit for the global economy and less programs helping Americans, free enterprise to the GOP means global takeover of middle class wealth and the Constitution to them is what gives global corporations the right to speak wild gold bars to buy congressional votes.

    Arab nations are building the world’s tallest buildings, Europe and Asia have the world’s fastest trains, China and India are aiming to the moon, and every civilized nation has universal health care but us. This mess did not happen since Obama was elected. Obama was elected because this mess happened and Republican global corporate sympathizers are obstructing him from changing it.

    February 16, 2010 11:18 pm at 11:18 pm |
  18. kyle sexton

    I'm really tired of her. I feel that she makes the nation feel makes us lose our freedom of speech. I also have a disability. I am deaf and I still laugh at their jokes about our deaf culture. Palin is the most dramatic politician I've ever heard. It's called entertainment...comprende? Why dont you focus on healing the nation and world peace instead focusing on TV shows? Ease ur sensitivity and shut up...thank you. and have a pleasant life

    February 16, 2010 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  19. Peter s

    There is no diffference between the Republicans and the Tea Party movement they both drink from the same cup full of hate!!

    February 16, 2010 11:30 pm at 11:30 pm |
  20. A. Smith, Oregon

    Steele promises the moon for the tea party wing-nuts to join the Republican Corporate masters. And their cry is lower taxes for the corporations. Which translates to what, further dilapidation of America's public schools. More than 50,000 Americans dieing each year because they don't have health care and cannot afford health insurance.

    February 16, 2010 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm |
  21. lovitrleave

    What say you now pelosi?

    February 16, 2010 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  22. Gary

    Republicans are finding out that what the people want are lower taxes, less spending and lower deficits and smaller government...we are sick and tired of the government taking money from the hardest working Americans to give free food, housing or healthcare to the laziest Americans.....if the Republicans don't listen to use then we would vote them out of office too....right now the Democrats are not listening to us at all and they are "out of here!"

    February 16, 2010 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
  23. Anonymous

    We share a common purpose in stopping President Obama's agenda –this is alll they have no suggestions for policy or improvements,,just no and stop–screw em.

    February 16, 2010 11:55 pm at 11:55 pm |
  24. David Soares

    We share a common purpose in stopping President Obama's agenda
    This is it, thats all they've got–stop the other guy! At least the other guy has some ideas that may help solve some problems, all these guys have are two words, no and stop--bunch of barren and useless ideologues.

    February 16, 2010 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  25. John

    Michael Steele is the perfect man to be in charge of the RNC. After he basks in the blind devotion that far-right hardliners have for him, I'm sure he will be unable to resist the urge to tap dance for them. Or perhaps he can twirl a basketball on his fingertips. I doubt the hatemongers at Tancredo's favorite movement expect much more than that from him. In Steele's defense he did manage to speak in English despite Tancredo's expressed doubts.

    February 17, 2010 12:05 am at 12:05 am |
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