In early 2009 groups known as the “Tea Party” organized and held political protest rallies in 9 U.S. Cities. They protested the federal government’s passage of the stimulus bill and the health-care reform legislation that was being proposed by the Obama administration. Since that time the group “has gone viral” and has become a major force in American politics. They will play a major role in deciding what candidates win in the 2010 Mid Term Elections.
Who makes up this group of people and what do they stand for? The majority of the members identify themselves as political conservative voters who support smaller government, lower taxes, fiscal responsibility and individual freedoms. Several of the members describe themselves also as people who have never been involved in politics before. The members go on to say they decided to participate and become involved because of anxiety about the economy and concern about Congress’s out of control spending habits. The Tea Party members have 10 core beliefs, listed here:
Identify constitutionality of every new law: Require each bill to identify the specific provision of the U.S. Constitution that gives Congress the power to do what the bill does.
Reject emissions trading: Stop the “cap and trade” administrative approach used to control carbon dioxide emissions by providing economic incentives for achieving reductions in the emissions of carbon dioxide.
Demand a balanced federal budget: Begin the Constitutional amendment process to require a balanced budget with a two-thirds majority needed for any tax modification.
Simplify the tax system: Adopt a simple and fair single-rate tax system by scrapping the Internal Revenue Code and replacing it with one that is no longer than 4,543 words – the length of the original Constitution.
Audit federal government agencies for constitutionality: Create a Blue Ribbon task-force that engages in an audit of federal agencies and programs, assessing their Constitutionality, and identifying duplication, waste, ineffectiveness, and agencies and programs better left for the states or local authorities.
Limit annual growth in federal spending: Impose a statutory cap limiting the annual growth in total federal spending to the sum of the inflation rate plus the percentage of population growth.
Repeal the health care legislation passed on March 23, 2010: Defund, repeal and replace the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Pass an ‘All-of-the-Above’ Energy Policy: Authorize the exploration of additional energy reserves to reduce American dependence on foreign energy sources and reduce regulatory barriers to all other forms of energy creation.
Reduce Earmarks: Place a moratorium on all earmarks until the budget is balanced, and then require a 2/3 majority to pass any earmark.
This list of their beliefs have been downloaded from the www.TeaParty.org website.
The members of the Tea Party are not bashful about opposing candidates who will not support their agenda. Observe the results of the Republican primary in Delaware: The winner, Christine O’Donnell was backed by the Tea Party. She ousted a 9 term Republican incumbent Mike Castle. Every poll showed that Castle could win the Senate seat and defeat the Democrat nominee, however, Castle was not endorsed by the Tea Party and subsequently lost the election to O’Donnell who was endorsed by the Tea Party.
Scott Brown won the Senate seat in Massachusetts with the support of the Tea Party as well. The last time a Republican won a Senate race in Massachusetts? 1946 – Henry Cabot Lodge. Brown’s win in MA was considered the first real test of the Tea Party’s influence in a major election.
The critics of the Tea Party movement contend the Tea Party organization is a race based movement composed primary of older white Americans. The statement is partly true in that the Tea Party’s membership is roughly 56% men (men over 55). 24 % of the Party’s members are identified as people under 35. 78% percent of the members identify themselves as Republicans or Independents.
In the past 18 months there have been incidents where racial prejudice have been displayed at either a Tea Party event or by a Tea Partly Organization. At a rally in D.C. this summer racial banners were displayed. The organizational did confiscate the banners and ask the people displaying them to leave. Several black congressional leaders made accusations that racial slurs were directed at them at the rally, however, at this time no conclusive evidence has been produced that either proves or disproves those allegations.
In Iowa a billboard sign was erected this summer that portrayed Hitler, Lenin prescription drugs and Obama. The billboard was sponsored by the Northern Iowa Tea Party. After about a week of being displayed, members of the group forced their leadership to remove the billboard. The sign was replaced with a billboard featuring Thomas Jefferson.
The long term impact of the Tea Party remains to be seen. The second major test of their impact in the political process will be seen on Nov 2, 2010. If the Tea Party supported candidates win in November, the organization will gain momentum going into the 2012 elections. If their candidates do poorly, the organization will lose steam.