Case Study: The Tea Party
The Tea Party was created in February of 2009, and was aimed at opposing over taxation of the public and government intervention in the private sector. A secondary goal of the party was controlling immigration. The organization is sometimes related back to the Republican Party. The person who is generally credited with sparking the idea of the Tea Party is Rick Santelli of CNBC News. This is largely due to him calling out the Obama Administration, and their plans of helping foreclosure victims. The video hit YouTube and other social media sites, which helped the organization to rapidly gain followers.
Some other important members of the Tea Party include Jenny Beth Martin, Amy Kremer, and Mark Meckler. Martin is a co-founder of the party along with Meckler. Meckler was an activist and attorney before resigning from the group in 2012. Kremer, a former Delta Airlines flight attendant, is now an activist in the party and the chair leader.
There are many goals that the Tea Party is trying to achieve and the list can go on forever. Therefore, we chose to focus on three of the Tea Party’s main goals, which all affect the interests of the people. The first goal is to eliminate excessive taxes. Seems simple, and like most political parties, taxes are addressed frequently because of the popularity of the topic by the people. Eliminating excessive taxes would allow the American people to enjoy more of their own money and minimize government interference. The second goal is to eliminate the national debt. The Tea Party believes that the national debt creates a huge burden upon both the current and the future generation of Americans. Eliminating the national debt would increase economic health and prosperity for both todays and future American people. The third goal is to eliminate deficit spending. There needs to be budgets and balances like that of any American business. The elimination of deficit spending would help the country save money.
We found that the Tea Party movement, saw three major successes; one having to due with the goals we mentioned previously which was the shift in focus to tax and debt reduction and reduced government spending, the increased participation of people who had not before been involved in political movements and the influence it exerted on elections and policy.
Like we mentioned previously, two of the many goals of the Tea Party were to reduce business taxes and government regulation. We found that the movement was sometimes used by some non-profit organizations, including Americans for Prosperity, in a self-serving way. With longstanding ties to tobacco companies such as Philip Morris, they furthered their cause by capitalizing on popular Tea Party concepts to advocate on behalf of tobacco industry’s anti-tax, anti-regulation agenda. They mobilized local Tea Party opposition to tobacco taxes and smoke-free laws and served as an example on how to use Tea Party views on reduced government interference to exert pressure on health care reform and regulations on global warming pollution. The “grassroots” movement used the common person to fight for company profits.
Media coverage was massive, reporting on politicians’ comments both for and against Tea Party demonstrations hosted in all fifty states. These protests of out-of-control government spending and the increasing tax burden allowed Americans to make an impact on the political culture.
The Tea Party was successful in winning over the GOP and the country more generally; it shifted the political discussion to debt reduction and entitlement reform and instilled a philosophy of fiscal prudence even among more moderate lawmakers.
The movement consisted of both grassroots and elite segments. While the elite part of the movement failed at promoting its entire agenda within government, the grassroots component, adopted by many on the far right and conservative elites, succeeded in bringing voters out to the polls to help Republicans.
Political rallies attracted a great deal of attention from citizens who found the principles of the Tea Party appealing. On Tax Day, April 15, 2009, a Tea Party protest held in Seattle drew 1200 people. The Tea Party movement began to coalesce nationally as protests were held across the country. Talk show guests began to talk about the new effort that was becoming more mainstream.
The increased efforts of the Tea Party supporters influenced the outcome of some 2010 elections. For example, Republican Scott Brown, endorsed by the Tea Party, was elected as U.S. State Senator from Massachusetts to fill the seat formerly long-held by Democrat Ted Kennedy. In smaller movements as well, the Tea Party swayed local governments that began to transcend the traditional Republican/Democrat model.