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Tea Party Future as Predictable as the Weather


Sarah Viets • Apr 14, 2010

On the eve of Tea Party madness, hundreds of rallies are planned across the nation -nine in greater St. Louis, MO alone. In preparation for the big rally tea party goers are carpooling to Washington D.C. to participate in the second national tea party protest.

The festivities officially begin this Thursday, April 15, and will continue throughout the weekend. Currently, there are two major events planned for the day around the nation’s Capitol. Tea Party Express, Tea Party Nation, Resistnet.com, Michigan Sovereignty, along with eight other groups are hosting a “People’s Tax Revolt” at the Freedom Plaza. Tea Party Express is also starting the day off with a press conference at the National Press Club at 9:00am.

FreedomWorks Foundation is also hosting its own “DC Tax Day Tea Party” at the Washington Monument this Thursday. Campaign for Liberty, Young Americans for Liberty, Institute for Liberty, Rightmarch.com, and eight more organizations are sponsoring the FreedomWorks’ tea party festivities.

The existence of two distinct tea party events may give the impression that Tea Party Express and the Tea Party Nation are at odds with FreedomWorks; however, the three organizations joined together last week to form the National Tea Party Federation. Currently, it’s reported that only seven tea party groups formed the new federation, including FreedomWorks, Tea Party Nation (the organizers of the first national tea party convention), Tea Party Express, National Taxpayers Union, Americans for Tax Reform and the anti-choice organization, Family Research Council.

The federation appears to have formed after the groups struggled to defend against accusations of racist activity. Tea Party groups found themselves facing controversy when a tea party activist spit on an African American elected official while shouting racial epithets at a national tea party event last month.

It’s hard to know what may come from this federation, but protesting against taxes and the federal government may not be the only issues for the tea party movement. For the federation to include an organization that primarily focuses on social issues like the Family Research Council suggests that national tea party leaders may be venturing into new territory.

At the same time, a strong argument can be made that the voices of national tea party organizations may not actually represent tea party activists at the local level. To make things even more confusing, the national tea party groups joining forces may not support the same issues.

Take immigration. Dick Army, Chairman of FreedomWorks, blasted anti-immigrant leaders for alienating the Latino voters from joining the GOP by spewing hateful rhetoric targeting immigrants. But Judson Philips, leader of the Tea Party Nation, willfully participated on a national conference call hosted by the anti-immigrant group NumbersUSA. The purpose of the call was to organize counter events to the immigrant rights event, March for America (FreedomWorks and Tea Party Nation are both members of the National Tea Party Federation.)

At the same time, the smaller anti-immigrant organization, Americans for Legal Immigration PAC (ALI-PAC) is attempting to capitalize on the momentum of the tea party movement by hosting its own, “Against Amnesty” tea party rallies this Thursday. While only 49 have been registered on its website, NumbersUSA circulated an email encouraging its membership to organize and attend ALI-PAC’s tea party events.

Yet a poll released by the Winston Group suggests that less than 20% of tea partiers believe immigrants are to blame for high unemployment, an argument perpetuated by the larger anti-immigrant groups like NumbersUSA and the Federation for American Immigration Reform. This statistic may give the impression that tea partiers will not campaign against comprehensive immigration reform as they did against health care reform. However, the poll also revealed that 75% of tea party members view Congressional Democrats “unfavorably” and over 80% disapprove of President Obama’s performance.

Predicting the future of the tea party movement is as hard as predicting the weather, but one thing is clear: issues like health care and immigration are not the only motivating factors behind the tea party movement.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe tea party members would support immigration reform. I’m not holding my breath.

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