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.
If the Tea Party was indeed "AstroTurf" and somehow completely manufactured by the Republican Party or FOX News, then it would be a deception of epic proportions. Republicans have been promising limited government for years and have delivered nothing. Conservatives simply don't believe the Republican establishment anymore and support the Tea Party precisely because it is both outside of and in opposition to both major parties—not simply an auxiliary of the GOP. Political elites have attempted to dismiss the movement because to recognize its power and influence is a direct threat to both parties. This notion that the movement was somehow created by the Republican Party is particularly laughable when it was painfully clear in my own primary that the entire GOP establishment wished that my campaign and the Tea Party would just go away. Rasmussen and Schoen outline the movement's independence, power and popularity: