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On Tuesday, about 50 tea-party leaders met with Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, and there are concerns that this grass-roots movement could be co-opted by the GOP. Many of these new political activists are crying “foul!”

It is no secret that the Republican hierarchy across the nation has been courting tea-party leaders, but this meeting represented the first serious “real” date.

Can the tea-party movement cooperate with a political party it once despised? Can it find a place or even coexist within the confines of a brand many of these new activists feel is “tainted”?

The answer is you can date the GOP, or interested Democratic Party leaders for that matter, but you don’t have to hold hands or “go steady.”

Some tea-party activists believe the answer is a third-party moment. In fact, in some recent polls, a hypothetical Tea Party won more support than the Democrats or Republicans.

Unfortunately, it takes time and money – lots of money – to create a viable third party, and that seems to be in short supply in the tea-party movement. The reality is most third-party movements get trapped in the underbelly of politics and end up treading water for decades on end without making any real gains.

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There is a third way, and it is straightforward, simple and relatively easy: a takeover of the two political parties, one precinct at a time through precinct representatives. These representatives help elect county party leaders, who write the platform and often endorse candidates.

By all means, maintain your independence, but if you work from the ground up through the existing party structure, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. It is the quickest way to achieve your goals of safeguarding individual liberty, cutting taxes and reducing the public debt.

Unfortunately, most people have lost interest in local politics and see local party meetings of little or no value. Nothing could be further from the truth. That’s where it starts. That’s where the process of picking candidates really begins.

Apparently, many grass-roots Democrats caught on to the importance of local meetings some time ago. Back during the run up to the 1992 elections, one member of my local Republican Party Central Committee observed that the majority of cars in the parking lot at her meetings had Clinton/Gore bumper stickers. Yes, undercover Democrat activists had obtained positions in this local Republican Party and likely many others as well. Is it any wonder that the GOP has drifted further and further to the left?

If tea-party leaders are really serious about taking back the government, they need look no further than the model available at the National Precinct Alliance. The group headed by Philip Glass began working in Nevada and has already taken control of the Republican Party in Las Vegas, and his activists are spreading their control across the state and into neighboring Arizona. Now, states as far away as Ohio are seeing an increase in candidates running for Republican Party precinct positions largely due to Glass’ efforts. His strategy is simple – take over the precinct, take the state, take the party.

In most precincts it’s not a case of ousting existing incumbents, but simply showing up at party meetings and filling vacant positions.

Glass maintains his group is nonpartisan but encourages people to begin where they feel most comfortable. For most tea-party activists it has been within the GOP.

There was a time when there wasn’t a dime’s worth of difference between the goals of the two major political parties. The only disagreement was how best to achieve them. Not anymore! As the Democratic Party has drifted toward socialism, the Republican Party has steadfastly maintained its support of our founder’s principles of individual liberty and limited government, but the votes of the majority of its members tell a different story.

Gore Vidal once said, “It makes no difference who you vote for. The two parties are really one party representing 4 percent of the people.”

If tea-party activists are really serious about making a difference, they have to begin working from the ground up in both political parties. That’s how you become the “4 percent.”

Bear in mind, when you have two good candidates (one from each party) running against each other in the general election, no matter who is elected, we all win.

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