What is the 'tea party' and how is it shaking up American politics?
Here's your guide to FAQs about the tea party: What is the tea party? How did the movement get started? Could it determine the balance of congressional power?
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The Tea Party Express, based in Sacramento, Calif., was a major force behind the Republican primary victories of Sharron Angle in Nevada, Joe Miller in Alaska, and Christine O’Donnell in Delaware. It was also a major donor to Scott Brown’s successful campaign for US Senate in Massachusetts.Skip to next paragraph
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There may not be a “tea party” per se, but its adherents' philosophy and aims are officially represented on Capitol Hill. In July, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R) of Minnesota formed the Tea Party Caucus. Fifty lawmakers quickly joined the group.
While national organizations and grass-roots groups have their own stated goals, there is a tea party manifesto of sorts, which candidates are being encouraged to endorse. It’s the Contract From America, launched by Ryan Hecker, an attorney and activist in Houston.
Meanwhile, a clearer picture of tea partyers is emerging.
Among the findings:
• 86 percent oppose the formation of a third party.
• 36 percent support a 2012 Sarah Palin presidential candidacy.
• 81 percent have a website for their organization.
• 90 percent cited “to stand up for my beliefs” when characterizing their initial reason for involvement.
• 62 percent identified as Republicans, 28 percent as Independents, 10 percent as “Tea Party.”
“Tea Party activists are for the most part new to this role,” the report states. “They are neither practiced nor polished in activism; but having experienced a taste of the empowerment that comes with action, they feel more than ever that this is their time to act. Above all, they are motivated by a fear of NOT acting.... Their diversity is their strength, and they are not a movement that can easily be defined by those jumping up to lead them. They are powerful and, in this sense, they are the ‘early adopters’ of a new type of political involvement.”
More recently, the Sam Adams Alliance reports that significant numbers of newcomers to the tea party movement are dropping their affiliation with the GOP: Forty-seven percent changed their political affiliation to “Independent/unaffiliated,” 20 percent changed to “other,” 20 percent to “Tea Party,” and 13 percent to “Libertarian.”
That's exactly why Republicans as well as Democrats are very concerned about this new movement in American politics.