In the latest indication that the right wing Tea Party is a part of mainstream Republican Party strategy, GOP Chairman Michael Steele is meeting today with 50 of the "movement's" leaders.
The meeting comes only days after a week-long training session on political organizing sponsored for tea partiers by the California Republican Party and an announcement by that state's GOP that it will soon hold a "joint" Republican-Tea Party rally.
The South Carolina GOP, meanwhile, has a "resource-sharing" agreement with the Tea party groups and the North Dakota Republicans already hosted a joint GOP-Tea Party rally last Friday.
All of these events follow Sarah Palin's statement at the National Tea Party "convention" last week that "The Republican Party would be very smart to absorb as much of the Tea Party movement as possible."
There were reports before she spoke that the organizer of the "convention" was paying Palin a $100,000 honorarium to appear at the event and Palin opponents lost no time pointing out that it was a large amount to pay for a group of supposed grass-roots activists.
When asked about this Palin said she was "happy, honored and proud to take any spending fee and turn it right back around for the cause. It's about the people," she said. "I will live, I will die for the people of America."
Some union leaders in North Dakota, one of the places where overt cooperation between the Tea Party and the GOP has been growing, reject the notion that the Tea Party was ever an "independent" movement.
A local AFL-CIO leader there said, "I hate to say it, but my hat is off to Republican Party strategists. What we are seeing with the GOP and the Tea Party cooperation is nothing new. Their so-called movement is Republican from beginning to end."
Jackie Salit, writing for the Christian Science Monitor yesterday, said the Tea Partiers are not independents but "disgruntled social conservatives" trying to take over the GOP.
"Contrary to some of the spin, the Tea Party movement is not part of the independent movement. Anyone playing the political game, from the president, to the politicians, to the pollsters, confuses them at their peril."
Unlike Tea Partiers, Salit said, the 42 percent who call themselves "Independents" are people who are seeking to restructure the partisan political system."