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The Tea Party: a critical approach

As midterm elections approach, the Tea Party movement is continuing to gain grassroots support and media attention. This combination has made them a fairly prominent political force.

Since their infancy in 2009, Tea Party supporters have invoked the Boston Tea Party to compare King George’s taxation of the colonists to Obama’s economic recovery plans and the resulting taxation.  They have protested against any government spending that they see as detrimental to their perceived constitutional rights. The list of grievances includes Obama’s mortgage relief plan, the health care bill and the corporate bailouts. These programs were intended to repair the economic deficit created by the Bush tax cuts, which will expire in the coming months. The Tea Party does not see this use of tax money as having an eventual positive effect for the working population, and would rather use the money to lower their taxes.

The Tacoma 912 Project, a local branch of a Tea Party protest group, uses the common party theme of the Constitution, claiming to protect the “9 principles & 12 values embodied in our country’s founding documents”. One of the group’s leaders, Glenn Beck, wrote on the party’s website: “Today I have stopped looking for a leader because I have come to realize that the only one who can truly save our country…is us.” To this end, they work for fiscal independence and accountability for recipients of government aid.

Liberals have criticized the Tea Party for its single-mindedness and lack of ability to help working-class people. “The tea parties don’t represent a spontaneous outpouring of public sentiment,” wrote economist Paul Krugman in a now-famous 2009 New York Times opinion piece. “They’re AstroTurf (fake grass roots) events.” They have also been accused of racism, both among protesters and party leaders. The amount of media attention on the Tea Party creates a double-edged sword for their identity; while it has given them national recognition as a 3rd party group, it has also revealed some severe intolerance among its members. Still, the approval of prominent conservative politicians like Sarah Palin and the support of conservative media outlets have kept the Tea Party alive and growing. Its emergence cannot be doubted as a factor behind the predicted Republican swing in Congress.

As more spending is introduced, there will be more conservative opposition, both in Congress and among the general populace. It will surely be interesting to see what role the Tea Party will play in American politics in the future.

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