What is the Tea Party Movement? - Definition & History

Instructor: Jeremy Battista
We are all familiar with the Democratic and Republican political parties, but what about those 'third parties' you hear about? In this lesson, we will look at the history of the Tea Party Movement and how it has grown since its inception.

Tea Party Movement: A Brief History

Tea Party? You mean that game that my sisters played where you sit around pretending to drink tea? Oh, it's a political movement you say? Let's take a look.

The Tea Party movement started around 2004 among conservatives who began to dislike the direction in which they saw the Republican party moving. It became a grassroots campaign to try to branch out of the Republican party and try to find it's footing in the values that this nation was founded upon, and what the Boston Tea Party of 1773 was fought for. A number of protests were staged to bring awareness to the movement and it's issues with politics. The Tea Party movement can be found utilizing the classic yellow Gadsden flag with the words, 'Don't Tread On Me' scrolled across the bottom.

Tea Party protest
Tea Party Protest

Many also trace the Tea Party movement to Ron Paul's 2008 presidential bid. Paul, a known libertarian, embodied many of the ideals of the Tea Party movement. Those conservatives, liberals, etc. who felt the two party system needed some tweaking, flocked to the Tea Party movement.

Chicago Tea Party?

However, all of these were mere stepping stones to the bigger Tea Party movement. While these actions helped foster the resentment and attitude towards the government that helped spur the Tea Party movement, the real 'ah ha' moment where the Tea Party movement gained national attention came in 2009. On February 19, 2009, CNBC analyst Rick Santelli made a remark that really thrust the Tea Party into the limelight and gave cohesion to the movement.

At the time, the federal government had agreed to bail out homeowners and lenders with the Homeowners Affordability and Stability Plan. This plan was to help those that would have gone bankrupt without this stimulus plan. Santelli accused the government of 'rewarding bad behavior' and suggested, most famously, that there should be a 'Chicago Tea Party' in protest of this bill's passage. After these remarks, the Tea Party movement really caught steam and took off to become what we see today.

What Do They Stand For?

It would be difficult to list every single thing that the Tea Party movement stands for, but suffice it to say it is rooted in conservatism, belief in traditional values, with some ideals from libertarianism, belief in individual's freedom of choice. Among some of its most prevalent tenets is smaller government, reduced spending, reduced taxes, and keeping a strong military. Again, many conservative ideals with a sprinkling of libertarian ones as well.

One of the positives that the Tea Party movement members claim, is that because they are not an actual organized political party, but rather are comprised of many different organizations, they do not have a centralized hierarchy like the other political parties. Therefore, as it is decentralized, it allows the movement itself to not become corrupt and thus can be safeguarded against outside intervention and attacks. Although there are many different factions of the Tea Party movement, most of their agendas are generally closely aligned; however, some organizations may put more emphasis on some issues that others do not.

How Is It Different from Modern Conservatives?

The Tea Party movement is a branch of modern conservatism in that they typically call for budget and spending cuts as well as smaller government. Where it differs, however, is in some minor and major details. National debt, healthcare, immigration and energy are just a few of the places where the two parties differ.

While it is true that Republicans would support many of the reforms that the Tea Party movement is looking for, not all Republicans would. It is also a concern that the Republican establishment will not follow through on their repeal of the Affordable Healthcare Act, their promise of reducing government spending, and their promise of taking a hardline stance against immigration.

There are some differences, but the Tea Party movement is an offshoot, albeit a more hard-lined offshoot, of the Republican party. The Tea Party movement tries to promote a stringent adherence to the Constitution versus allowing politics to continue as usual.

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