The Tea Party is a conservative movement that began in 2009 to protest government taxation and spending policies. It is disputed which was the first Tea Party protest, but the first official organizations were created after CNBC reporter Rick Santelli went on a rant against the government plan to refinance mortgages and suggested holding tea parties to dump derivatives into the Chicago River.
It now has a caucus in the House and the Senate, although it doesn't have any official leaders. It is rather a loose affiliation of local groups and calls itself grassroots, although many accuse it of astroturfing with donations from powerful conservative backers like the Koch brothers. Some notable names involved with the movement include Sarah Palin, Dick Armey, Michelle Malkin, Jim DeMint, Ron Paul, and Michele Bachmann.
What's the significance?
The Tea Party favors reduced government influence in almost all arenas. Its adherents oppose taxation and support reducing the national debt and the federal deficit, reducing government spending, and strictly originalist interpretations of the Constitution. The Tea Party Patriots have also asked politicians to sign the "Contract from America," which endorses identifying the constitutionality of every new law, balancing the budget, limiting federal spending, reducing taxes, and opposes health care reform, emissions trading, and earmarks.
With overwhelming media attention, the Tea Party has been a strong force in moving politicians further to the right. In the 2010 midterms it primaried Republicans with its own more extreme candidates. Many of the positions they endorse go against the policies of the New Deal, such as government spending on social programs and infrastructure projects.
Who's talking about it?
Thomas Ferguson and Jie Chen wrote a working paper that looked at the real impact of the Tea Party in the Massachusetts election that put Scott Brown in the Senate...In opposition to the Tea Party's attempts to claim the legacy of the Founding Fathers and the founding era, William Hogeland goes back to that time in history and revives its progressive leanings...David Woolner compares today's movement to the American Liberty League during FDR's time...Joe Costello also points out that the original Tea Party fought against a global mega-corporation...Lynn Parramore warns against writing the movement off...She also spoke out against Tea Party-backed policies to re-integrate North Carolina schools...Harvey J. Kaye calls out Tea Partiers who try to rewrite history and reclaim FDR's legacy...Andrew Rich explains how much more progressive policies have to offer anxious Americans than the Tea Party...Wallace Turbeville traces its roots to the emergence of conservative celebrities who aren't bound to any party or company...Richard Kirsch explains the larger picture behind the vehement opposition to health care reform.