Trouble brewing between the Tea Party movement and the GOP?
Members of the Tea Party movement say they are not beholden to the GOP.
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Tea Partiers across the country recall a growing sense of anger well before presidential election night in 2008, as outgoing President George W. Bush helped prop up the teetering U.S. financial sector amid the worst downturn since the 1930s and issued emergency loans to struggling automakers General Motors and Chrysler. Under Obama, the government took stakes in both companies.Skip to next paragraph
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"I remember just screaming at the TV," said Tanya Bachand, 35, a trial lawyer and Connecticut state coordinator for the Tea Party Patriots. "I was frustrated long before Obama came along because of how much the government grew under Bush. To me Obama was like Bush, only much worse."
The moment that launched the Tea Party came a shortly after Obama took office. On cable business channel CNBC, on February 19, host Rick Santelli launched into an impromptu tirade from his regular slot at the Chicago Board of Trade against plans to help struggling homeowners. Santelli proposed a tea party in Chicago in July to protest government bailouts.
This was a reference to the Boston Tea Party, an act of protest against the British government over taxation in 1773, a moment that has resonated throughout American history.
"The Rant," as Santelli's monologue has become known, struck a chord with conservatives.
"If we hadn't had all of those bailouts the economy would be back on track by now," said Tina Dupont, a founding member of the Tea Party of West Michigan. "The jobs would be back, companies would be coming back. If they'd let the banks and others collapse, we would have had a short, sharp downturn."
The consensus among economists is that had the U.S. government and Federal Reserve not propped up the markets, a global depression would likely have ensued. Yet Dupont and others profess an unshakable belief in the power of the free market. To them, government intervention makes crises only worse. They argue runaway government spending threatens America's future.
Tea Partiers say Santelli spoke to a deep-seated anger among conservatives who felt betrayed by the Republican politicians they had believed in. Many want big government spending programs like social security scrapped.
"Social security is socialism," said Jim Chase, 80, a retiree on social security, who is a member of the Ludington Tea Party. "If we don't stop all this spending, we won't have anything left for our grandchildren."
Chase said he would rather have a system where Americans were able to invest their social security payments themselves, an idea not unlike President Bush's proposal to privatize social security. So when Santelli let rip, fiscal conservatives were eager to answer the call.