The Tea Party is the opposite: a large group of unabashed, nonpartisan outsiders who want everyone to have their say yet doggedly reject letting a single individual or a handful of individuals speak for them or the movement. I said time and again throughout my campaign that the Tea Party movement equally chastises both Republicans and Democrats. Of course, this has always fit me to a tee, since my constant criticism of my own party's job performance is one of the reasons that I was not endorsed by establishment Republicans during the 2010 primary. Many conservatives were outraged over Bush's deficits and spending. They felt betrayed, and rightfully so. The dominant message of the Tea Party is fear that our national debt and budget deficit—the fault of both parties—will destroy our nation. Though the movement is heavily decentralized—and what some might call disorganized - advocating for a much smaller, leaner federal government continues to be its one unifying principle.
The extent to which the movement's critics not only dismiss grassroots voters' grievances but the Tea Party's very legitimacy is amusing. Commenting on the April 15, 2009 rallies, then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, "This [Tea Party] initiative is funded by the high end—we call it 'AstroTurf,' it's not really a grassroots movement. It's AstroTurf by some of the wealthiest people in America to keep the focus on tax cuts for the rich instead of for the great middle class."
There's no question that some in the political establishment have tried to latch on to the Tea Party or manipulate the movement for their own benefit. Any Tea Partier could tell you this, and they all are aware of it precisely because maintaining their independence is so important. The movement is keenly aware of possible establishment-type interlopers and, if anything, is probably overly suspicious—in fact Tea Partiers are quite the opposite of being dupes, as critics such as Pelosi love to portray them.
Pelosi's view of the Tea Party is typical of elitists. Or as pollsters Scott Rasmussen and Douglas E. Schoen, authors of the book Mad As Hell: How the Tea Party Movement Is Fundamentally Remaking Our Two-Party System, explained at Politico.com:
(T)he political class's assault on the tea parties has been continuing and systematic. Indeed, Rasmussen Reports has shown that 87 percent of the political class views "tea party member" as a negative description, while almost half—or 48 percent—of ordinary mainstream voters see it as a positive.
The reason for this broad-based support is simple: Voters in our survey said that they believe that the current leadership in both parties has failed to achieve policies that address their most pressing concerns—creating jobs and ?xing the economy. Furthermore, respondents were clear that they want a pro-growth agenda, ? scal discipline, limited government, de?cit reduction, a free market and a change from politics as usual. They view the tea party movement as having a unique contribution in achieving these goals.
Given today's anti-Washington, anti-incumbent sentiment, it is hardly surprising that voters have largely rejected the efforts of political, academic and media elites—on both right and left—to ignore or marginalize the tea party. Many among these elitists have now branded the tea party movement as AstroTurf, an inauthentic political movement funded by wealthy and influential businessmen.