Classification of the Tea Party Movement

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Classification of the Tea Party Movement


The Tea Party movement appears to be a rather unique entity. There is much confusion as to the exact classification of the Tea Party movement. Are they a political party, an interest group, or a social movement? Even after countless internet searches a definitive answer was seemingly nowhere to be found. There are three possible classifications of the Tea Party movement that will be explored. As well as information on which of the three systems would be the more effective route for the movement to take and why that route would be the most effective. This should paint a clearer picture of the Tea Party movement and their actual classification. The first look will be at whether or not the Tea Party is a political party, an interest group, or a social movement. And then at what would have been the more effective approach and why that approach would have been more effective. The hope is that by the end of this, the reader will have a better idea of the Tea Party movement’s position as a social movement and why a becoming a separate political party would have been their most effective approach. Is the Tea Party movement a political party, an interest group, or a social movement? Power and Choice: An Introduction to Political Science defines a political party as “a group of officials or would be officials who are linked with a sizable group of citizens into an organization. A chief objective of this organization is to ensure that its officials attain power and are maintained in power” (Shively, 2012, p. 251). The Tea Party movement clearly has a group of officials that they wanted to place into power. However, with no centralized leadership and little to no attempt to separate from the Republican Party one would be hard-pressed to argue them as a political party. Also, Ron Paul, who is often referred to as the godfather of the Tea Party movement, is currently running for the republican nomination. The republican candidates are frequently campaigning for the votes of the Tea Party voters. Along with, seemingly every news outlet constantly mentioning how the republicans are fighting for the Tea Party vote the line between the two parties continue to blur. A Washington Post article states, “at a 2012 presidential forum in New Orleans in June, (Michelle) Bachmann estimated that the tea party consists of 60 percent republicans, 20 percent independents and 20 percent democrats” (Blake, Aaron “Tea party democrats do exist.” Washington Post. July 6, 2011. Web. March 7, 2012). This tells me that the Tea Party movement is a branch of the Republican Party that has differing views on some major issues, but still identifies themselves as republicans. Therefore, no, by this evidence the Tea Party movement is not a political party. The Tea Party movement, however, also is not an interest group. According to Power and Choice: An Introduction to Political Science an interest group is an “organized group of citizens that has one of its goals ensuring that the state follows certain policies” (Shively, 2012, p. 251). Historically groups such as Greenpeace, the National Rifle Association and the Air Force Sergeants Association have been classified as interest or “pressure” groups. These groups use their organization as a means to represent public opinion to government officials. Looking at the definition of interest group one could possibly deduce that the Tea Party movement must be an interest group. Do they want to ensure that the state follows certain policies? Yes. They demand lower taxes, call for the elimination of deficit spending, and insist the government abides by the Constitution and the institution of fiscally conservative policies to eliminate the national debt. Just like with the democratic and republican political parties, the Tea Party movement shares some similarities with interest groups. One could easily consider the Tea Party movement an interest...
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