The Growing Importance of the Tea Party Movement

In Boston, Christen Varley (center) led a Tea Party meeting to discuss gubernatoral candidates, at a meeting in The Green Dragon. (Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff)

Stephanie Ebbert has a nice article in the Globe today on the growing importance of the Tea Party Movement:

In the current upended political climate, the Tea Party members in Massachusetts — now claiming up to 8,000 believers and basking in the earth-shaking victory of US Senator Scott Brown — have the clout to make candidates come to them.

Candidates are showing up at events like this one across the state, even though the Tea Party’s loose confederation of activists has no membership rolls, no party apparatus, no candidates, and no money. Candidates do not know precisely what the Tea Party is or how its activists will vote in November. They just know they had better pay attention.

Scott Brown’s upset victory this year has shown the Massachusetts political class that there is a large number of people looking for change. These are not the people who go to protests, and are involved in political activism. They are a silent majority of the regular working citizen of Massachusetts who feel increasingly like their needs are not being met, and are now willing to consider candidates from outside traditional party affiliation, and vote for change.

This has energized activists for many reforms which have been ignored by legislators for years, and is causing an unprecedented number of both progressive and Republican candidates to challenge incumbent legislators.

We are seeing races for Congress with upwards of 11 challengers:

Our local legislative races are like a game of musical chairs this year. As Massachusetts Senators line up to run for Congress, many Representatives are looking to move up to Senate, leaving a large number of open seats in the Massachusetts House (24) and Senate (8). And and we are still weeks away from the filing deadlines. It’s likely more seats will open.

There are huge opportunities for new candidates.

The reason there is so much interest this year is simple: the government has not been responsive to the people – especially here in Massachusetts.

The legislature responds to the needs of politically connected special interests and a large number of issues that affect the people are ignored. They raise taxes and cut services for the majority, while protecting the interests of a vocal minority.

Look at last year’s budget cuts. -16% cut to local aid which affects the local schools, fire and police departments. But only a 4% cut to state programs – where a lot of the special interest and earmark money was protected.

This year they want to balance the budget on our backs again. There was a resolution about level funding local aid – and they didn’t even allow it to come up for debate – so they would not get caught on record opposing it.

There are a lot of issues people want to see debated: gun laws, benefits for illegal immigrants, alimony reform, shared parenting, gay marriage, health care, public funds for abortion. Whatever side you are on these issues – they are important to a large number of voters. These issues should make it to the floor of the legislature and be debated in the open and legislators should go on record.

So people are looking for alternatives. That’s why the Tea Party doesn’t endorse candidates or even takes positions on issues. The public wants accountability and transparency. We are uniting despite our differences on specific issues to demand better government.

Some politicians will listen to this – they will come back after November. A lot of them will miss the clear message we are sending them – they will not be missed.

Change is coming in November for sure.

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