Saturday, February 6, 2010

Where is "tea party" heading? Leaves are unclear

The "tea party" activists all agree: Government is too big. Spending is out of control. Individual freedom is at risk. And President Barack Obama's policies are making it all worse. But that's where the consensus ends among the diverse groups of frustrated Americans who count themselves part of this fledgling coalition. "We're afraid and we're fed up and we're angry," says Donna Henton of Blair, Neb. "But where this is going to go, we just don't know." If the people attending the first national "tea party" convention here are uncertain, imagine the difficulties of the Republican and Democratic parties, both of which are trying to leverage this antiestablishment energy for their own gain. How it works out could make a big difference in elections this fall and beyond. Here's what's clear: This is pure people-driven politics facilitated by the Internet. This is an ideological mix of libertarianism and conservatism with the common denominator being lower spending and smaller government. This is a loose collection of citizen groups with no leader but many voices. And this is the product of long-simmering anger. Is it just a blip? Or will it emerge as a lasting political powerhouse shaping elections and government for years to come? more

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