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Why the Tea Party Convention is tea-tering on the edge

With two major speakers throwing in the towel, the first-ever Tea Party convention is giving Americans a glimpse at internecine fighting over the direction of the libertarian movement. But for now, the show goes on in Nashville.

By Staff writer / January 30, 2010

Tea party activists protest President Obama's appearance last October at a political fundraiser in Stamford, Conn.

Douglas Healey/AP

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Atlanta

With conservative firebrand Sarah Palin headlining, it’s been billed as an event to fuse and celebrate the tenets of the disparate “tea party” movement that has rocked American politics over the last year, forcing President Obama to take a more frugal and populist stance.

But so far, the first-ever Tea Party Nation Convention, slated for next weekend at Nashville’s Opryland, has been anything but a show of unity.

The decision by Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R) of Minn. and Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R) of Tenn. to pull out of the convention, coming after similar withdrawals from groups like the American Liberty Alliance, has given Americans a glimpse into the vigorous internecine battles tearing at what critics mock as America’s latest mobocracy.

But so far, the tea party show goes on, and reports that Ms. Palin will speak to a half-empty room are most likely overblown. The uproar over the convention, some tea party activists say, is, in fact, exactly the kind of healthy debate necessary to shape a stronger and more influential movement.

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'No central authority'

“The controversy only proves there’s no central authority,” says John O’Hara, author of “A New American Tea Party” and one of the early tea party organizers. “And wherever and whenever people are getting together to talk about getting the nation on track, it is a positive thing.”

Still, it turns out the exit of two key speakers is only the tip of the iceberg for the embattled convention, an event that some tea party activists fear could tarnish the movement.

The big beefs:

Sticker shock

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