American politics has always been a hotbed of debate and discussion, with the two major political parties constantly bickering, pointing fingers, and issuing challenges. Throughout the centuries that the United States has existed, the term 'tea party' has become synonymous with the word 'protest'. The term has its origins in the 1773 protest, where colonists in Boston, Massachusetts, protested the Tea Act of the British government. The colonists boarded a ship bound for England and pitched crates of tea, the ship's cargo that had been taxed by the British government, into the Boston Harbor. The complaint by the angry colonists was that they were being taxed by the British government without having any representation in Parliament. Since that time, the term 'tea party' has come to represent a protest by citizens who do not believe their elected officials are adequately representing their interests.
The modern Tea Party movement of today started gathering steam shortly after President Barack Obama was sworn into office, when he and the Democrats in the House of Republicans passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009―without a single vote by a Republican. Three Republicans in the Senate―Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, and Pennsylvania's Arlen Specter (who later became a Democrat)―crossed their party lines to vote in favor of the legislation.
This lack of bipartisanship was an outrage to many Conservatives, as well as to a handful of political moderates, who viewed the $787 billion 'emergency' act to be proof of the intent to rapidly grow a big government and a demonstration of wasteful spending. In the following weeks, as word began to spread about Democrat plans to increase estate taxes, capital gains taxes, federal income taxes, and cigarette taxes, a massive national protest was organized by Conservatives on April 15―a date significantly chosen because it is when local, state, and federal taxes are all due. The protests were scheduled to happen simultaneously in 300 cities around the country.
In spite of wide efforts to publicize the coverage of the protests, there was astonishingly little coverage in advance of April 15. This fact only validated the opinions of most Conservatives that most media outlets are operated by liberals who have fully embraced President Obama's political and societal agendas. The only network news channel that provided full coverage of the protests was the FOXNews channel.
On April 15, 2009, when the Tax Day Tea Party protest was actually held, it was mocked and derided by the same news outlets that had ignored it from the very beginning. One of the most famous examples of this was when Susan Roesgen, a CNN correspondent covering the protests, actually started to argue with some of the people she had been interviewing. Roesgen, who was supposed to be an objective newscaster, called them 'anti-government'. When the crowd began booing her, she called them 'anti-CNN', and said the protests were backed by FOX. Although conservative media outlets were highly critical of Roesgen, and rightfully so, most of the liberal media outlets that had been happy to ignore the planned protests beforehand were all to ready to defend her actions. However, none of them went so far as to say that Roesgen's coverage was at all similar to conservative coverage of liberal-themed protests such as anti-war demonstrations or anti-Bush protests. In most cases, a reporter calmly asks protesters why they attended and what they are hoping to achieve. Roesgen crossed that line, but liberal media outlets defended her unprofessional attitude.
David H. Koch, the head of Americans for Prosperity, a conservative grassroots advocacy group, has taken credit for launching the idea of the Tea Party protests. FreedomWorks, also a conservative advocacy group, was a partner in planning the events. As a result, the liberal media marginalized the entire phenomenon of Tea Party activism as 'astroturfing'. However, regardless of who actually came up with the idea of organizing the tea parties, the people who attended them were not the professional protesters who show up at liberally-themed demonstrations, such as anti-war and gay rights protests. The attendees who showed up were hard-working Americans who held real jobs, who had real concerns about the direction the country is headed.
Other tea party protests have been held, both large and small, since the initial Tax Day protest. over the summer there was an organization called the 'Tea Party Express', which began planning a cross-country tour to protest the Obama administration. The tour lasted from August 28 through September 12, 2009, stopping in several large American cities along the way. Another tour was sponsored from October 28 through November 12. As the debate over the health care overhaul began to heat up, the Tea Party protests became more intense. In addition to protesting excessive government spending and government waste, the organizers added to its long list of issues the opposition to government-owned and government-operated health care. The Nationwide Tea Party Coalition, which was co-founded by Heritage Foundation policy analyst and former White House speech writer Michael Johns, began to take a lead role and helped lend the movement a legitimacy that it had been lacking.
Despite liberal criticism and efforts to silence its effectiveness, the Tea Party movement has shown no evidence of slowing down. On the contrary, conservative organizers planned hundreds more events for 2010, and the movement has become a driving force behind many conservative groups' plans to 'take back America' in the elections this November. In early December 2009, a Rasmussen poll was published that showed that if the Tea Party movement were to become a political party, politicians affiliated with it would draw more votes than politicians affiliated with the Republican Party. Although the poll results may be considered representative of declining support for the Republican Party, they can also be seen as firm validation of the Tea Party movement, which is becoming a growing force to be reckoned within American politics.