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Tea Party for Real, For Now

Shimmy Blum

With November midterm elections just one month away, and with Democrats in danger of losing control of Congress, the “Tea Party” is getting more attention than ever. Are they a flash in the political pan, or will they be a force in politics and policy-making for years to come?

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Tea party

They have been derided as irrelevant, racist, wacky — and a slew of other unsavory labels.

However, when Democratic former president Bill Clinton said in September that the Tea Party has a message that “everyone should hear,” all doubt about the movement’s potency had been erased.

In the bygone primary-election season, the Tea Party — actually a political movement of about a half-dozen loosely organized activist groups — coalesced in opposition to the spendthrift habits and politics-as-usual of the Washington establishment. The movement takes its name from the Boston Tea Party of 1773; American activists dumped three shiploads of tea into Boston Harbor to protest the high taxes that Britain had levied on its American colonies. The twenty-first-century version has unceremoniously dumped more than seven incumbents or “establishment” candidates either from office or from contention in the upcoming elections in thirteen different states.

Ironically, even though the average Tea Party activist might have been motivated by disdain for the Obama presidency and his Democrat-controlled Congress, all of the Tea Party candidates displaced Republicans, not Democrats, an indication that their disfavor is primarily with the system itself.

Bradley Smith, a former member of the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and currently a Capital University law professor specializing in election law, says, “I’m fifty- two years old, and I’ve never seen anything like this on the political scene in my life. It’s an extraordinary time.”


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