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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Bachand's group teamed up with others in the state -- from gun rights to anti-abortion groups -- to form the Connecticut Patriot Alliance. "Everybody in the alliance has their own particular bugaboo," she said. "But we all agree on the Constitution, so we work together on the big issues."Skip to next paragraph
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They focused on local Senator Chris Dodd, the Democrat chairman of the U.S. Senate Banking Committee. "Every time Chris Dodd set foot in the state, between us we had 50 to 100 people waiting to protest," Bachand said. "We made a real statement."
In Waco, Texas, the town's Tea Party group blocked a local bailout. According to local media reports, in October the Waco City council approved a $700,000 loan to keep a local high-tech firm afloat under new ownership. But when the Waco Tea Party got wind of the decision, they mobilized to prevent it.
"It made me mad," recalled leadership council member Lisa Dickison, a mild-mannered woman who looks incapable of anger.
Waco Tea Party head Toby Marie Walker said five or six members went to a county commissioner meeting, where the bailout was due to be approved. Walker said their presence alone led the commissioners to stop the bail out.
"We just had to show up and they knew why we were there," she said.
The healthcare debate is where conservative Tea Partiers feel they have had most impact. They are convinced they forced Republicans into opposing the reform and felt they were a crucial factor in getting Scott Brown elected to the Senate seat left vacant by the death of Ted Kennedy.
"On a conference call in December someone said maybe Brown could win and that we should get behind him," Meckler of the Tea Party Patriots said. "The idea gained momentum from there."
People like retirees Calvin and Linda Dykstra wanted to eliminate the Democrats' 60-seat, filibuster-proof majority that helped healthcare reform pass a vote in late December. They drove from western Michigan to Massachusetts in January and spent a week campaigning for Brown.
Speaking at a Tea Party meeting in Manistee, Michigan, the two beamed and blushed like newlyweds, despite being in their mid-60s. "Not everyone had the time or the money to do what we did, but we felt we had to stop the socialist government takeover of healthcare," said Calvin, a former physician.
As the movement has grown, coalitions have formed. In Michigan, Tea Party groups have formed the Michigan Tea Party Alliance with supporters of Glenn Beck's 9.12 Project -- a conservative group that wants America to resume the spirit of unity of September 12, 2001, the day after the September 11 attacks.
"The movement is beginning to coalesce around a core set of principles -- constitutionally limited government, free market ideology and low taxes," said Tony Raymond, who was laid off at consulting company Accenture in March 2009 and is now a leader of the Northern Illinois Patriots.