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So many parties, so little time

Mark Mardell | 20:25 UK time, Friday, 12 November 2010

Tea_Party.jpgWhat do you do when you are asked to two parties at the same time? Ask Peggy Post? Perhaps not this time.

This is not a dilemma for the crustless cucumber set but the beginnings of an ideological battle, a conflict about purity and pragmatism.

In an e-mail to its members, the Tea Party Patriots group warns that their newly-elected members of Congress are in danger of being nobbled by the Washington establishment.

They have an event this weekend aimed at showing how new members of Congress can govern according to the Constitution. But they say the Claremont Institute has organised a similar event for the same time. The Tea Party Patriots offered to combine the two but were "summarily and, we thought rudely, dismissed".

The Patriots claim the rival event is an attempt by lobbyists to indoctrinate their new members.

So they've urged supporters to write to their elected members - helpfully providing a list of e-mails and phone numbers - asking, "Do you want them to attend an event where DC insiders can begin to corrupt them? The water in the Potomac is infected with the politics of the past and needs to be boiled to be cleansed and then steeped in fresh tea."

I've been wary of predictions that the Republican establishment and the Tea Party will inevitably slide towards civil war. While there will be inevitable tensions between purity and pragmatism, they agree on the big issues. But the suspicion between them is real and hostilities have apparently already begun.

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