What is the National Tea Party?

Erica Stratton

The National Tea Party is a loosely organized group of conservatives formed to protest the 2009 bank bailouts and 2010 health reform bill in the US. The group takes its name from the original Boston Tea Party, which was organized to protest England's tax on the newly formed American colonies. Though they have carried out many peaceful rallies and speaking engagements, the National Tea Party has also been lampooned in the media as being fanatical or intolerant.

The U.S. Capitol Building.
The U.S. Capitol Building.

It is difficult to track down a specific origin for the National Tea Party rallies, but conservative American news reporter Michelle Malkin's blog claims that the very first rally was set up by a blogger named Liberty Belle to protest the higher taxes that would come from the 2009 bank bailouts. Inspired by political commentator Bill O'Rilley's nickname for the bill, "Porkulous," roast pig was served at the protest.

The National Tea Party takes its name from the American Revolution's Boston Tea Party.
The National Tea Party takes its name from the American Revolution's Boston Tea Party.

On 15 April 2010, at the Washington Monument in Washington D.C., protesters unveiled a "Contract With America." The brainchild of Tea Party activist Ryan Hecker, the document outlined goals that the Tea Party would later support. These include curbing government spending, reversing the bank bailouts and urging lawmakers to follow the original precedents set down by the US Constitution.

The Tea Party rallies have since gained the status of a grassroots movement in the US. The movement does not have a definite leader, nor is it recognized as an official political party. Each rally or protest is instead organized by a local activist. The primary tool for communication across the National Tea Party is social media.

The National Tea Party has also been the subject of much lampooning. For instance, members of the Tea Party often referred to themselves as "Teabaggers." Since "teabagging" is a derogatory term in American slang, many television comedy shows created skits based around this fact. The National Tea Party has since decried the insulting use of the term and now uses the collective phrase "Tea Partiers."

There is concern over the National Tea Party's ability to be inclusive, since its main demographic is primarily white, middle-class males. Charges of racism, homophobia and intolerance have been brought against the group. Since it speaks out against US President Barrack Obama's administration, the movement has attracted "Birthers," who believe Obama is not a US citizen, among its supporters.

Tea party protestors unveiled a "Contract with America" at the Washington Monument in 2010.
Tea party protestors unveiled a "Contract with America" at the Washington Monument in 2010.

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