Tea Party Movement

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Tea Party protest in Washington D.C. on September 12, 2009.

The TEA Party Movement (TEA is a backronym for Taxed Enough Already, but also means Tyrannized Enough Already for many[1][2][3]) was a nationwide mainstream movement of grassroots, peaceful protesters encompassing millions of individuals and thousands of self-organizing groups, all united in accomplishing a single goal: returning fiscal responsibility and limited government to the United States through the exercise of political activism.[4] The main focus of the TEA Party Movement is a rebuke of outrageous mandates, overspending and a radical agenda by an out of touch federal government with values similar to King George III (see Boston Tea Party).[5]

As of 2016, the movement is largely non-existent. Organizations are not holding protests. It's not a political movement or a political party. No single leader emerged. Yet the principles behind the grassroots movement live on due to the fact that the changes sought have never taken root. You will still hear opponents cite the movement and you'll hear media pundits describe a candidate as Tea Party aligned.


On December 16, 2007, supporters of Ron Paul staged a re-enactment of the Boston Tea Party as a fundraiser event, and to promote Paul's bid for the presidency.[6][7] Paul's GOP campaign received a "moneybomb", which broke the record for 24 hour fundraising.[8][9] This event coincided with the 234th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party.[10] This was seen as a major upset to the Republican GOP establishment.[11] Paul's youthful, libertarian-minded, supporters created a divide within the Republican Party.[12][13] Juan Williams, a commentator at Fox News, commented that the Tea party emerged "from the ashes" of Paul's 2007-2008 presidential campaign.[14] David Weigel at slate.com said, "The first modern Tea Party events occurred in December 2007, long before Barack Obama took office, and they were organized by supporters of Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas..." [15]

The tea party movement grew exponentially in magnitude in February 2009; however, while Rick Santelli's famous impassioned speech on CNBC was perhaps the most visible spark that ignited Tea Party gatherings across the nation, the movement's genesis was in progress long before that notable day.[16] The movement was in gestation for years, in the hearts and minds of American citizens concerned about the path down which progressive policies have been taking the United States of America. The emergence of the Tea party Movement has been called Main Street America's indictment against the ruling class.[17]

With a silent but growing number of concerned citizens worried about the increasing government debt, impetus was given to the grassroots movement when radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh criticized the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 on January 27, 2009. Limbaugh accurately predicted the stimulus bill would make the recession worse, and said it is the wrong kind of government intervention.

I don't believe it is a "stimulus plan" at all -- I don't think it stimulates anything but the Democratic Party. This 'porkulus' bill is designed to repair the Democratic Party's power losses from the 1990s forward, and to cement the party's majority power for decades."[18]

On February 9, 2009, a Cape Coral woman named Mary Rakovich led a small protest outside President Barack Obama's townhall meeting in Fort Myers, Florida.[19][20] Then in late March 2009, faced with the prospect of heavy fines from the city for not having the proper permitting or insurance, Mary Rakovich moved forward with future protests but with the backing of national organization FreedomWorks. Rakovich said FreedomWorks offered to provide the insurance per the city's rules.[21]

The first anti-spending protest, organized by Liberty Belle, occurred in Seattle, Washington on February 16, 2009.[22][23] Another protest was held the following day in Denver on February 17,[24] and a protest in Mesa, Arizona on February 18 brought 500 protesters.[25] The American people began organizing Tea Party protests en masse after Rick Santelli's famous speech on February 19, when he declared, "We're thinking of having a Chicago Tea Party in July! All you capitalists that want to show up at Lake Michigan, I'm going to start organizing."

Shout Heard 'Round the World

The Tea Party Movement gained support when on February 19, on live TV, CNBC reporter Rick Santelli argued about the bailouts and shouted, "The government is promoting bad behavior."[26][27] Standing in the middle of the Chicago Stock Exchange, Santelli declared that America needed "a new kind of tea party," so that citizens can express their discontent with "the government's support of fiscal irresponsibility."[28][29][30]

The government is promoting bad behavior! [...] How many of you people want to pay for your neighbor's mortgage that has an extra bathroom and can't pay their bills? Raise their hand. (boos) President Obama, are you listening?! We're thinking of having a Chicago Tea Party in July. All you capitalists that want to show up at Lake Michigan, I'm going to start organizing. [...] I'll tell you what, if you read our Founding Fathers, people like Benjamin Franklin and Jefferson, what we're doing in this country now, is making them roll over in their graves.[31]

With the help of DontGo, Top Conservatives on Twitter (TCOT), Smart Girl Politics (SGP), The American Spectator, Americans for Tax Reform, FreedomWorks, and The Heartland Institute, the Chicago Tea Parties were scheduled to happen nationwide on February 27, 2009.[32]

February 27th Tea Parties

Americans across the country gathered in 50 cities to protest the newly passed Stimulus Bill of 2009.[33] Over 30,000 people made it to this event.[34] Many at the event were upset over the economic stimulus packages and bailouts for Wall Street pushed through by both President Bush and President Obama's administrations.[30][35]

Location Sponsors[36] Details
Atlanta, Georgia TCOT, SGP, Don'tGo A reported 300 to 400 protesters gathered outside the Georgia Capitol in protest of a $787 billion recovery bill.[37][38]
Chicago, Illinois Don'tGo[39] Approximately 300 people braved the 25 degree cold and wind in Chicago.[30][40][41]
Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas Americans for Prosperity,[42] TCOT, SGP, Don'tGo, Dallas County Young Republicans A "Texas-sized Tea Party" of 300 or more Texans met in Fort Worth, protesting big government and taxes.[43] One sponsor, TCOT, collected over 800 signatures during the event.[44]
Denver, Colorado TCOT, SGP, Don'tGo At the East Capitol Steps, 100 "Atlas Shrugged" fans braved cold temperatures for a "Nationwide Chicago Tea Party" to protest the Obama Administration's bailout plan.[45][46]
Houston, Texas TBD Large groups, not entirely made up of Republicans, tried to create a modern-day version of the Boston Tea Party.[47][48]
Washington, D.C. Americans for Prosperity, Americans for Tax Reform, Young Conservatives Coalition, The Heartland Institute The American Tea Party made some noise outside the White House.[49][50] Several hundred taxpayers showed up at the DC Tea Party protest in Lafayette Park,[51][52] including "Joe the Plumber."[53]

Scheduled Rallies

Tax Day Tea Party poster

Tax Day Tea Party

Main Article: Tax Day Tea Party

Success from the Chicago Tea Party protests, as part of a concerted nationwide effort, led to the first of many scheduled Tea Party rallies. Following the February 27th Tea Parties, a group called Americans for Prosperity of North Carolina began implementing plans for a "Tax Day" Tea Party rally in Raleigh on the tax filing deadline.[35] Leading up to the Tax Day Tea Parties, the events were organized and promoted by volunteers, activists, and Political action committees across the United States.[54] By taking advantage of online viral marketing to get the word out,[55] the speed and scope with which the Tax Day Tea Party protests were organized can be attributed to the use of Twitter #TCOT feeds,[56] on blogs,[57] and the social networking Website Facebook.[58]


Tea Party protestors in Washington D.C. on September 12, 2009.

The Tea Party Movement held its first scheduled nationwide protest on April 15, 2009, a day that became known as the Tax Day Tea Party.[59][60] In the spirit of the Founding Fathers Boston Tea Party, the rallies used themes from the American Revolution and also adopted the "American Tea Party Anthem," a song first performed during a March 21, 2009 Orlando, Florida Tea Party that drew over 4,000 people.[61][62][63] Dick Armey of FreedomWorks became one of Washington's principal supporters of the Tea Party movement.[64] Glenn Beck, Rand Paul, Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin, and many others encouraged and even participated in aspects of the movement.

President Obama is seen to have responded to the tea parties with requested budget cuts of $100 million on April 20, 2009.[65] Rush Limbaugh contended, "I'm sure they've got internal polling data that shows these tea parties are successful and these tea parties are a problem. So they're responding to the tea parties here. That's all this is." According to a Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey on April 20, 2009, the poll found that fifty-one percent (51%) of Americans had a favorable view of the tea parties held nationwide, including 32% who said their view of the events were "Very favorable." Thirty-three percent (33%) held an unfavorable opinion of the tea parties. Fifteen percent (15%) were not sure.[66]


A Tea Party rally in Nevada on March 27, 2010.

The Tea Party Patriots[67] announced a milestone in the Tea Party movement: 2 million people attended the April 15 Tea Party events across the country in 2010, and 2,000 groups are now voluntarily affiliated with the Tea Party Patriots through its Web site.[68][69] Recent polls have shown that 48% of voters believe their views are reflected more closely in the values of the Tea Party movement than in the views of President Obama.

Independence Day

Main Article: Independence Day Tea Party

The same organizations decided to repeat their performance on Independence Day (July 4, 2009). Even more people attended; the largest such rally was held on the grounds of the Southfork Ranch (scene of the television series Dallas '), in Plano, Texas, which drew 37,000 attendees. The themes that organizers and participants sounded at these events were much the same as were those at the Tax Day events: advocacy of limited government, decrying of high levels of taxation, and refusal to countenance plans for socialism and especially socialized medicine.

Labor Day

Several organizations also organized Tea Parties on Labor Day, once again sounding the same limited-government, low-tax, and anti-socialistic themes. Those organizations that did not plan such events often referred people to those that did.

September 12 March on Washington

Main Article: September 12 March on Washington
Gadsden snake.jpg
The largest TEA Party event thus far has been the September 12 March on Washington, DC. This was an event organized initially by the FreedomWorks Foundation, but nearly all Tea Party organizations decided to participate in this event, primarily by chartering buses and registering people for transportation to Washington. FreedomWorks estimates that 600,000 to 800,000 persons attended, and they base that estimate on the number of persons who responded when their Master of Ceremonies asked all attendees within earshot to send the text message "Freedom" to a designated five-digit telephone number. However, the London Daily Mail estimates attendance at as many as a million persons, on the basis of eyewitness accounts and aerial-photographic evidence.[70] Estimates of total attendance are difficult to obtain, primarily because the size of the crowd far exceeded the estimates by the event planners, with the result that many attendees were never able to get within earshot of the stage or even the sound system, and the temporary sanitary facilities were hopelessly jammed, with fifty persons standing in line to use each portable "necessary."

Operation: Can You Hear us Now?

TEA party demonstrations have targeted local and national media outs across the country to oppose massive government spending. In a press release, the movement was led by FaxDC in about 100 cities across the U.S. on September 17.[71] Rush Limbaugh has previously spoke for the need for such media targeted TEA protests.

  • NBC studios in Burbank
  • CNN in Atlanta and
  • Affiliate stations of NBC, ABC and CBS
  • The New York Times
  • Los Angeles Times
  • Other prominent newspapers.


TEA Party Movie

TEA PARTY: The Documentary Film was released Thanksgiving Day 2009, is a documentary of five grassroots activists. The story line "from home town rally goers and rally organizers to national activists taking part in the 912 Taxpayer March on Washington." The theme is about principles, a call for a return to constitutionally limited government, personal responsibility, and fiscal restraint at the Federal level.[72]

Pink Slips Campaign

For a more detailed treatment, see Pink Slips campaign.

Organized in part by Joseph Farah from WorldNetDaily, they had a goal of sending each and every member of Congress more than 5,000,000 pink slips.
Each pink slip reads YOU ARE BEING PUT ON NOTICE and

  • government health care
  • cap and trade
  • "hate crimes"
  • any more spending

"If you vote for any of these, your real pink slip will be issued in the next election"

As of November 2009, 8 million pink slips have been sent to Congress at a cost of $29 each [73]

Noteworthy achievements


Indivisible.org, an organization closely aligned with President Obama's organization Organizing for Action[74] released a report detailing the accomplishments of Tea Party protesting, in which the highlighted the following:

  1. Changed votes and defeated legislation
  2. Radically slowed federal policymaking
  3. Forced Republicans to reject compromise
  4. Shaped national debate over President Obama’s agenda
  5. Paved the way for the Republican takeover in 2010 and Donald Trump today

The report concluded by saying that "These were real, tangible results by a group that represented only a small portion of Americans."

By engaging in culture through protest, by closing down streets in peaceful and constitutional activism, by holding up cardboard signs with original slogans written in sharpie, by being an activist bunch unwilling to join the Silent majority, the Tea Party proved that Protesting works and influences culture.


This is an incomplete list of Tea Party victories in elections:


  • The Tea Party Movement has exposed the progressive agenda and its significant correlation with the failings of higher education in America.[85]
Neither professors of political science nor of history have made a priority of instructing students in the founding principles of American constitutional government. Nor have they taught about the contest between the progressive vision and the conservative vision that has characterized American politics since Woodrow Wilson helped launch the progressive movement in the late 19th century by arguing that the Constitution had become obsolete and hindered democratic reform. ... They do little to teach about self-government. They certainly do not teach about the virtues, or qualities of mind and character, that enable citizens to shoulder their political responsibilities and prosper amidst the opportunities and uncertainties that freedom brings. Nor do they teach the beliefs, practices and associations that foster such virtues and those that endanger them. ... [America's] universities have produced two generations of highly educated people who seem unable to recognize the spirited defense of fundamental American principles, even when it takes place for more than a year and a half right in front of their noses.


The Tea Party Movement is a protest of the generational theft of public tax monies, the tremendous extensions of United States Federal debt and authority, the apparent restructuring of the Federal government with the intent to contravene the system of checks and balances for which the Constitution provides, and the attempt, which some movement organizers say has been in progress for several decades, to sacrifice liberty for permanent dependency. The Tea Party Movement began with a protest against two aspects of current public policy:

  1. Excessive taxation
  2. Special privilege

Rick Santelli specifically cited the mortgage bailout policies of early 2009 as a prize example of the government doing special favors for certain classes of voters, in return for their continued support, and also of the "moral hazard" in which such policies inevitably place anyone who "buys on time," i.e., buys any sort of asset, from a home appliance to a parcel of real estate, using borrowed money.

As the movement has progressed, it has begun to sound broader themes, which one may best summarize as:

  1. Self-responsibility
  2. Self-autonomy
  3. Limited government
  4. A requirement that government live within its own means, just as individuals must live within theirs
  5. Capitalism
  6. Freedom of all varieties of production and trade
  7. Respect for the United States Constitution


Autonomy of local organizers

Most organization of Tea Parties and similar events is local. Typical of the movement is the Morristown Tea Party Organization (Morristown, New Jersey), which has a five-member board of trustees and about fifty dedicated volunteers who handle operations, communication, and logistics without assistance or direction from any regional or other organization. Statewide coordinating bodies do exist (for example, New Jersey Tea Parties United), but local organizations are responsible for most of their activities, fund-raising, and legal functioning. In this regard, the Tea Party Movement is similar to the Independent Baptist Fellowship of North America, which never seeks to dictate to individual churches how they must conduct their affairs.

Individual comportment and deportment

Event participants, and especially event planners, are urged to comport themselves in a manner respectful of the rights and feelings of others. Organizational leaders consciously endeavor to distinguish their movement from many liberal protest movements, which often characterize themselves by rude behavior, vandalism, and even physical assaults against their opponents. Any person who persistently suggests that Tea Party Movement participants engage in activities remotely similar to this may usually consider themselves excluded, and in some cases organizers have summoned law-enforcement authorities to deal with provocative behavior by attendees at planning and other meetings.


Gadsden flag.png
By far the most prominent symbol at Tea Parties is the Gadsden Rattlesnake Flag.[86][87] The Come And Take It Flag has also appeared most notably at the September 12 March on Washington. Tea Party participants have almost always used home-made and home-decorated signs and other artifacts, in sharp contrast to the uniform, professionally printed signs carried at liberal demonstrations.

Most of the signs bear lampoons of the most highly publicized Obama Administration policies, from "Czars" to socialized medicine; moreover, Barack Obama is not the only target of criticism, the MSM has also been challenged in some rallies, both for their failings in covering the Tea Party Movement and also for what most participants regard as a collective decision by Mainstream Media organs to function as de facto government and/or Democratic Party as organs rather than the objective and disinterested commentators that they pretend to be.

Some of the signs that have been seen and photographed at these events have provoked cries of outrage from Tea Party Movement opponents, alleging bad taste, e.g. a picture of Barack Obama with the square mustache affected by Adolf Hitler and bearing the caption "I've Changed," and a sign bearing the message "Bury ObamaCare with Kennedy." After the liberal Mainstream Media quickly blamed conservatives and even Rush Limbaugh, some research was done to find the true source of the Hitler poster. It was later uncovered that the provocative Hitler signs were from a group of far-left Lyndon LaRouche supporters, as they were infiltrating the Tea Party rallies as a means to spread their extreme visions.[88]

Demographic profile

A Quinnipiac Poll conducted in March 2010 found that thirteen percent of American voters say they are part of the Tea Party movement, a group containing more women than men. 49% told pollsters they voted for Barack Obama in 2008, while only 44% voted for John McCain.[89] Despite these findings, the White House has been linked to efforts to label the Tea Party as racist.[90]

News Coverage

Attitude of Tea Party Movement participants toward four MSM outlets

By far the most industrious news organization that has covered the Tea Party Movement is the Fox News Channel, especially with commentators Neil Cavuto, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and Greta Van Susteren. Coverage of the Tea Party events by the Mainstream Media has lacked both quantity and quality. The three traditional broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, NBC) have attempted to falsely discredit these events as corporate-sponsored or sponsored by the Republican Party and other conservative or reactionary groups, and have generally censored the movement by refusing to cover major events.[91][92]

Uncivil Language

Several news anchors working for CNN and MSNBC used uncivil language to describe Tea Partiers and coined the phrase "teabaggers," which is a crude term used to slur conservatives. Additionally, President Obama used the crude term as an off-color connotation attempting to mock Tea Party Movement organizers and participants across the nation. During an interview with the New York Times, Barack Obama described the people of the Tea Party Movement as "the teabag, anti-government [extremists]."[93] Vice President Joe Biden accused Tea Partiers of having "acted like terrorists" in a fight over raising the nation's debt limit, according to several sources in the room with him, as reported by Politico.[94][95][96]

Confronted with an epidemic of joblessness in her home state of California, liberal-socialist[97] House representative Maxine Waters tried deflecting blame by telling a group of supporters that the "Tea Party can go straight to hell."[98] She then threatened: "And I intend to help them get there."[99] At a Labor Day speech with Barack Obama in attendance, right before the president spoke, James P. Hoffa declared war against the Tea Party Movement. He offered to a cheering Obama, "President Obama, this is your army. We are ready to march. Let's take these sons of bitches out."[100][101] In a show of the same attitudes that several liberal leaders have expressed in graphic and ugly form, anonymous liberals created a Tea Party murder game, called "Tea Party Zombies Must Die."[102]

Death Threats

Tea Party organizers are not controlled or funded by the Republican Party or any established interest group. However, FreedomWorks and Dick Armey are well known supporters of the Tea Party Movement, and thus receive dozens of threatening and harassing calls and E-mails each day. FreedomWorks provided U.S. News & World Report with some of the recordings of the threatening calls, which include physical threats and profanity aimed at the group, Tea Party spokesmen and even conservative talkers. "You guys better watch it," says one caller. "Now, we are going to destroy and obliterate Rush [Limbaugh] and Sean Hannity," said another. "Those two guys are dead."[103]


Gordon Anderson wrote:

Corruption and abuse of power seek to cloak themselves under the banner of security interests in order create elite ruling classes that are a threat to the security of those they are sworn to protect and the constitutions they are supposed to uphold. Citizens in both the United States and the European Union are witnessing the fruits of their lack of vigilance. This is a core underlying concern and reason for the rise of the “Tea Party” movement and its European counterparts. Such movements will continue arise as leaders of the so-called “free world” continue to violate the major principles of sound governance and hide corrupt actions under veils of secrecy.[104]

Ron Paul was once asked about the political disagreements, within the Tea Party, on issues such as Iran. He responded to Rachel Maddow on MSNBC:

"I think the message gets a little bit diluted when a lot of people come in and the Republican party wants to make sure that maybe there's a Neocon type of influence." [11]


In late 2009, the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll showed 41% of Americans had a positive view of the tea party movement and 24% had a negative view . By contrast, 35% of Americans had a positive view of the Democrats and 28% had a positive view of the Republican Party.[105] By the beginning of 2013, the percentage of people saying they have a favorable opinion of the Tea Party had dropped to 30% with 49% saying they had an unfavorable opinion.[106]


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  96. Ryan Rhodes Calls the Program, Rush Limbaugh, August 16, 2011.
  97. Maxine Waters threatens to nationalize U.S. oil industries, YouTube, (Accessed August 22, 2011).
  98. Tea Party Group Slams Rep. Waters Over 'Straight to Hell' Outburst, Fox News, August 22, 2011.
  99. Liberal MSM Omitted Maxine Waters Overt Threat to Tea Party, Bluegrass Pundit, August 22, 2011.
  100. Jimmy Hoffa, bring it on!
  101. Don Hoffa Goes to the Mattresses, Rush Limbaugh
  102. Tiffany Gabbay. ‘Tea Party Zombies Must Die’: New Online Game Lets You Gun Down Beck, Bachmann, Palin..., The Blaze, September 6, 2011.
  103. Paul Bedard. Tea Party Group Hit With Death Threats, U.S. News & World Report, August 25, 2010.
  104. Wikileaks and the Balance of Political Principles
  105. "WSJ/NBC News Poll: Tea Party Tops Democrats and Republicans," Wall Street Journal Dec. 16, 2009
  106. Just 8% Now Say They Are Tea Party Members, Rasmussen Reports

See also

External links

Music Videos

For a more detailed treatment, see Tea Party Movement Videos.