Tea Party Politics

The Tea Party movement and what it portends for American politics has been one of the major topics of discussion in the 2010 cycle.  As described by Mark Meckler, a co-founder and one of the national coordinators of the Tea Party Patriots, the Tea Party is "first true open source political organization" and is focused on the core values of "fiscal responsibility, constitutionally limited government, and free markets." [interview]. There are thousands of local chapters.  Although the Tea Party movement is reminiscent of the Ross Perot-inspired Reform Party in its grassroots activism, its spokespeople make clear that there is no intention of becoming a third party, as that route has had little success in American politics (>).  Another group, the Tea Party Express, is backed by the Sacramento-based Our Country Deserves Better PAC (>).  The Tea Party Express has organized several bus tours and endorsed candidates.  In April 2010 a National Tea Party Federation formed "to facilitate and support messaging, rapid response to media misinformation, and to collaborate and promote the movement’s core principles." (>).

The Tea Party claims to draw from "all slices of the political spectrum," but its principles do align more closely with the Republican Party ("The Contract from America").  During the primaries many Republican candidates sought to claim the mantle of the Tea Party.  One of the challenges for the Republican Party has been how to harness the energy of the Tea Party activists without being tarred by the more extreme views that some of the activists hold; Democrats have sought to link the two (1, 2).  There have also been charges of racism, which Tea Party spokespeople have forcefully rejected. (1, 2).

Tea Party favorites include such figures as former Gov. Sarah Palin, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN).  In July Bachmann formed an official House Tea Party Caucus (>).