Tea Party, in the early 21st cent., U.S. political movement that arose in reaction to the economic crisis of 2008 and the government rescue and aid measures for the financial, automobile, and other industries as well as broader stimulus measures enacted in 2008 and 2009. Strongly conservative ideologically, the movement and its members generally opposed the significant deficits incurred by the government in an effort to counteract the recession and avoid a potential depression and, more broadly, objected to increased government control and spending, taxation, and illegal immigration while favoring free-market economics, national debt reduction, states' rights, and a narrow reading of the Constitution. The Tea Party also has strongly opposed the Obama administration's health-care insurance overhaul, and has at times had a stridently anti-Obama tone. Usually characterized as a grassroots populist movement, the Tea Party is also supported and financed by a number of influential and well-funded right-wing organizations and has benefited from significant media support from conservative news organizations and commentators, particularly Rupert Murdoch's Fox News. The movement's adopted name harks back to the 1773 Boston Tea Party.
Tea Party rallies were held across the country beginning in early 2009. They have since featured a number of prominent speakers, among them Sarah Palin, perhaps the most popular Republican aligned with the Tea Party; she also gave the keynote address at the first National Tea Party Convention (Feb., 2010). Despite the convention, the Tea Party is not a monolithic or centralized organization but an amalgamation of a number of national and local groups. In 2012 it was estimated that there were some 1,000 different Tea Party groups spread over the 50 states. Although not an organized party, it has become an important and influential faction of the Republican party, and most Americans who have identified themselves in polls as adherents of the Tea Party have also identified themselves as Republicans. In several primary elections, the Tea Party was credited with toppling a number of prominent traditional Republican candidates in favor of Republicans that it supported; those candidates' successes were more mixed in the 2010 general election, but a third of the Republican House members elected in 2010 were aligned with the movement.
See D. Armey and M. Kibbe, Give Us Liberty: A Tea Party Manifesto (2010); J. Lepore, The Whites of Their Eyes (2010); J. M. O'Hara, A New American Tea Party (2010); K. Zernike, Boiling Mad (2010); E. P. Foley, The Tea Party: Three Principles (2012); R. P. Formisano, The Tea Party (2012); M. Meckler and J. B. Martin, Tea Party Patriots (2012); T. Skoepol and V. Williamson, The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism (2012); C. S. Parker and M. A. Barreto, Change They Can't Believe In: The Tea Party and Reactionary Politics in America (2013).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.