What is the Tea Party?
Michigan party member explains the movement
They call themselves the Tea Party, but the Tea Party-backed candidates are usually Republicans. Rather than an official political party, the Tea Party is a political movement that is having a profound influence on the 2010 mid-term elections.
"The Tea Party is about getting citizens involved," said Stephen Ross, President of the Southeast Michigan 9.12 Project, a Tea Party mission. "Our [America's] Founding Fathers' concept of government was that the citizen had to be as active as possible." The 9.12 Project is named for the nine principles and 12 values of the Tea Party.
The Tea Party movement was founded in 2009 to advocate smaller government, lower taxes, and a smaller national debt. According to a CBS News poll, 18 per cent of Americans identify themselves as Tea Party supporters.
"The Tea Parties are filled with people who are average citizens," Ross told the Scholastic Kids Press Corps. "We are the heart and soul of what the American spirit is."
U.S. Senator Dan Inouye of Hawaii disagrees.
"I think they're good Americans, but they go to the extreme," he said. "They're not covering the soul of America."
Inouye is a former veteran and spoke to the Scholastic Kids Press Corps at a rally where the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) endorsed Senator Barbara Boxer for U.S. Senate in California.
The Tea Party movement has no central national leadership. Every state has numerous different groups and projects promoting the Tea Party's mission.
Historically, the name Tea Party refers to the Boston Tea Party in 1773. The Boston Tea Party sparked the American Revolution when a group of British colonists decided to protest high taxes on tea. They refused to accept a shipment from England, dumping boxes of tea into the Boston Harbor in protest. The Tea Party's name also stands for "Taxed Enough Already!"
Tea Party election influence began early this year. In January, a special election in Boston, Massachusetts, was held to fill the seat left open by Senator Edward Kennedy's death. In that race, Scott Brown, a Tea Party-backed Republican candidate, won the election. He took a seat long held by the Democratic Party.
Tea Party candidates also had some surprise wins in primary elections, which determine who will represent their political parties on the November ballot. Christine O'Donnell, a candidate for Vice President Joseph Biden's Senate seat in Delaware, was backed by the Tea Party. She has since become known as the candidate who has had to declare publicly that she is "not a witch."
In Nevada, Sharron Angle, a Tea Party-backed Republican candidate, has become a real threat to U.S. Senator Harry Reid, who currently serves as the Senate Majority Leader. Reid called out the big guns to go up against his opponent. Former President Bill Clinton was recently in Nevada campaigning for him and warning voters against casting their ballots in anger.
"If any time in your life you make an important decision when you're mad, there's an 80 per cent chance you're going to make a mistake," Clinton said at a rally for Reid. "I don't want people to abandon their anger. I want them to channel it so they can think clearly."
Ross says the Tea Party movement is about citizen involvement and not anger.
"We can't sit in front of the television and not be aware of the fact that we have responsibilities as citizens to participate in government," he said. "If we allow other people to govern for us, then we will get tyranny."
Additional reporting by Kid Reporter Mariam El Hasan, Los Angeles, California.
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