In 1773, American colonists destroyed British tea rather than pay what they considered a tax that violated their right of “No Taxation without Representation.” This became known as the infamous Boston Tea Party. Today, the United States seems to have been introduced to a modern day Tea Party movement that emerged in 2007 with a Libertarian bent, led by U.S. Congressman Ron Paul of Texas.1 One of the first major actions of Tea Partiers was to help elect Senator Scott Brown to the “Kennedy Seat” with the mantra that they were returning the Massachusetts U.S. Senator position to the people.2 As time passed, this movement has slowly moved further right, rising in major prominence in 2009 through a series of both local and national protests. As of July 2010, the Congressional Tea Party Caucus was developed and chaired by U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann, Republican from Minnesota.3
The movement has no official central leadership but is loosely affiliated with smaller local groups and many Republican political voices. One of the most well-known “faces” of this movement is the polarizing Sarah Palin. The movement is in heavy response to several Federal laws, with primary concerns including but not limited to4: cutting back the size of government, lowering taxes, reducing wasteful spending, reducing the national debt and federal budget deficit, and adhering to the U.S. Constitution. Individuals of the movement also speak out on a wide variety of issues including a current hot topic: illegal immigration and border control.
This movement seems to have electrified the core Republican base in a similar fashion that President Obama electrified the youth and Sarah Palin excited the Republican base during the 2008 Presidential campaign. Media coverage of these two individuals during the campaign was extremely distinctive to elections of the past. Similar to these two individuals, the Tea Party movement brings forth very extreme thoughts and beliefs. Individuals either love and praise President Obama or Sarah Palin, or they dislike them. Similarly, individuals seem to completely support the Tea Party movement, or they seem to have a dislike, misunderstanding, or annoyance for the movement. However, this movement has truly changed the tone of this year’s election cycle. Tea Party candidates have swept the nation, and every individual who has any basic knowledge of current news has heard of the Tea Party movement and its supposed power. The more conservatively bent news agencies tend to show the party to be a strong and dominant force to be reckoned with; the more moderate, left-leaning news agencies show it to be rather modest in size and fairly irrelevant, and the liberal media tends to show it as a movement to be mocked and criticized. Regardless, this movement is being talked about and has made a huge impact in the Republican primary elections and current midterm elections.
The Wall Street Journal notes that as of October 18, of the 10 closest Senate races and 40 most competitive House contests, Republicans have raised $60 million in the third quarter compared to the Democratic candidates’ total of $45 million.5 This growth in fundraising in the last few weeks before the election shows the continuous momentum of this group. Furthermore, outside groups are noted as spending nearly $300 million in support of Republican and Tea Party candidates. Also, the Republican Governors Association has reportedly raised $30 million in the last quarter, triple the amount of its counterpart. Though these numbers only represent the Republican Party in general, the Tea Party candidates seem to have a dominant stranglehold on the Republican Party in regard to candidate nominations, and much of the funds raised have been for Tea Party candidates.
Tea Party candidates have won many surprising nominations across the nation (e.g., Sharron Angle, Nevada; Christine O’Donnell, Delaware; Ken Buck, Colorado), beating out more mainstream, establishment contenders. The polls for many of the Tea Party candidates show that, though many of them won the primary, during the general election they are far from clear-cut winners. It seems that a handful of Tea Party candidates are seen by the mass as utterly ridiculous and embarrassing. Many Tea Partiers have come to be known as “Tea Kettles,” as noted by Pulitzer Prize Winner Columnist Thomas Friedman. These individuals represent a movement of pure passion and often simply hot air. Such candidates as O’Donnell or Angle seem to have questionable backgrounds and rhetoric. Individuals seem to look at these candidates as mere mouthpieces akin to those who simply stand and read a teleprompter. Being able to nail the buzz words and key statements does not associate well with the general public. The public wants substance, heart, and individuals who can speak from education, knowledge and experience. Though the Tea Party movement has many candidates who are not akin to Angle or O’Donnell in reputation, these individuals (along with Sarah Palin) have come to be seen as the faces of the movement.
The Tea Party movement has truly raised more awareness to the community and has sent a rippling effect through society, showing that individuals are sick of “business as usual politics.” Individuals are sick of the same “good ol’ boys club” and sick of empty rhetoric of hope and change. These individuals are so sick of the games that they do not care as much about who gets nominated, just as long as the same, mainstream, establishment candidates are run out of town.
There is also an underexposed and underappreciated movement that stretches beyond just the standard Tea Kettle movement, and it is the movement and thought process of those in the center of the political spectrum. These individuals include, but are not limited to, moderate Republicans, liberal Republicans, Independents, conservative Democrats and moderate Democrats. These individuals have a gut desire for true change. They care more about the country as a whole and individual liberty rather than just the protection of a political party. Many people in this sector are sick of the blame game and sick of the whining; they simply want intelligent action. They care about the candidates and what the candidates bring to the table, and not just to make a clean sweep of establishment. These individuals are the ones we must look towards because they will be the future of our political regime. The Tea Kettle movement, with extremists and blowhards, will have its moment to shine, but the passions will blow over and the supporters will move on. However, those in the center of the aisle will continue to look for true leadership, and if they do not find it in the two-party system, they will find it elsewhere.
The movement and outrage of citizens that we see today is about a desire for change in the entire establishment system, a demand for actual accountability and a destruction of the current political era of business as usual.
1 Michael Levenson, Ron Paul Raises Millions in Today’s Boston Tea Party Event, BOSTON.COM (Dec. 16, 2007), http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2007/12/16/ron_paul_raises_millions_in_todays_boston_tea_party_event (last visited Oct. 25, 2010).
2 Scott S. Powell, Scott Brown: The Tea Party’s First Electoral Victory, CHRISTIAN SCI. MONITOR (Jan. 19, 2010), http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/Opinion/2010/0119/Scott-Brown-the-tea-party-s-first-electoral-victory (last visited Oct. 25, 2010).
3 Elyse Siegel, Michele Bachmann Plans to Form Tea Party Caucus in Congress, HUFFINGTON POST (July 16, 2010), http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/07/16/tea-party-caucus-michele_n_648817.html (last visited Oct. 25, 2010).
4 Russell Berman, Gallup: Tea Party’s Top Concerns Are Debt, Size of Government, THE HILL (July 5, 2010), http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/107193-gallup-tea-partys-top-concerns-are-debt-size-of-government (last visited Oct. 25, 2010).
5 Brody Mullins & Danny Yardin, In Year’s Tightest Races, GOP Rakes in Cash, WALL ST. J. (Oct. 18, 2010), http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304250404575558410217801040.html (last visited Oct. 25, 2010).