Arizona -- with its battles over immigration and its liberal gun laws
-- has become something of a poster child for the anti-government movement.
Which is why the Tea Party Patriots, the largest tea party group in the country, will hold their American Policy Summit
at the Phoenix Convention Center Feb. 25-27.
The Tea Party Patriots, which claim more than 3,000 locally organized chapters and more than 15 million supporters nationwide, state on their summit website
that they picked Phoenix because the state's tea party invited them and also to support Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer's immigration reforms
, which have been challenged by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
"Arizonans have been under a lot of pressure this past year in regards to their immigration reforms," the website says. "When surveyed, you said you support the changes that Governor Jan Brewer and the Arizona legislature implemented. Going to Arizona for this American Policy Summit is a way to show support to those who implemented these changes."
Arizona's Wild West rebellion shows no signs of letting up.
On Monday, a proposal
was being heard in the Arizona Legislature that would require hospitals to confirm whether patients are in the country legally. No other state has such legislation.
Earlier this month, Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce introduced a bill
in the Legislature that would allow a 12-person committee to vote on when federal law applies to Arizona. It includes "federal statutes, mandates, and executive orders."
If the panel made a recommendation, the Legislature would then take a vote. If majority voted so, then nullification of the law could occur,
according to bill sponsors.
The summit will focus on "Five Pathways to Liberty" -- education, politics, courts, economics and culture, which will include repealing federal legislation, reforming health care, debating Fair Tax versus Flat Tax and gun rights.
The group's Facebook page
, with over 500,000 followers, has been focused on an array of topics, including making sure "FORMER Speaker Pelosi's 'Green the Capitol' initiative doesn't destroy America's free market!"
On the summit's website, Sarah Palin
, who isn't confirmed as a speaker, says in a promotional blurb for the event: "This summit offers a terrific opportunity for true American Patriots to hear from experts on issues like lowering taxes, balancing the budget and repealing Obamacare."
Coincidentally, Palin's daughter, Bristol, recently bought a house in a Phoenix suburb
Who's on the agenda? CPAC straw poll winner
Rep. Ron Paul, media publisher Andrew Breitbart, 2012 presidential candidate Herman Cain, a host of conservative pundits such as Dick Morris, and a handful of Republican congressmen, including Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert
and Georgia Rep. Rob Woodall
Arizona Democrats say the state is a predictable locale for the convention considering the current political environment there.
"The Tea Party Summit will find plenty of camaraderie at Arizona's state Capitol, where Senate President Russell Pearce has dubbed his own chamber the 'Tea Party Senate,'" says Jennifer Johnson, communication director for the Arizona Democratic Party. "Unfortunately, as Arizona's economy sinks further, the Russell Pearce Republicans are busy introducing birther bills, federal nullification bills and 14th Amendment bills that undermine the idea that any child born in America is as American as anyone else. Today in Arizona, Democrats represent Arizona's mainstream, while the Russell Pearce Republicans represent only the extreme."
The Arizona Republican Party could not be reached for comment, nor could organizers for the Tea Party Summit, which is not listed on the GOP calendar of events, although plenty of tea party meetings are.
The summit comes at a time when a battle rages between parties for voters, especially in light of last week's announcement by Arizona Republican Sen. Jon Kyl that he would not seek re-election
No party registration is required in Arizona, and the state is essentially divided into thirds – one-third Republican, one-third Democrats and the other third independents. Democrats say the only Democrats who can survive politically in Arizona are strong centrists like Rep. Gabrielle Giffords
and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who served as the state's governor for six years.
With success in the 2010 midterms, the tea party now finds itself in a place other political groups, such as the Know Nothing Party of the 1800s
, have in the past – charting a future that stays relevant in 2012.
"The tea party of today must do as good of a job organizing its internal rank and file as it has in organizing protest rallies," says Dr. Ravi K. Perry, Ph.D., director of Race and Ethnic Relations Concentration at Clark University in Worcester, Mass.
Perry says that the party will have to have leadership that rebukes the fringe elements of the party. "The tea party will want to frame their agenda not solely about 2012 or anti-liberal policies or anti-Obama," Perry says. "To create a lasting purpose, one that may truly make the group earn the status of a movement, a broader agenda must be sought."