Big wins Tuesday night for the Tea Party in Delaware and New York have provided additional fodder against the contention of some that the Tea Party is simply another branding of the GOP. Now, many people are again beginning to wonder what, exactly, the Tea Party movement is.
Though the Tea Party movement is certainly a hard one to pin down in concrete terms due to its large membership of previously apolitical activists, it seems fair to say that they are a large, often disjointed group of conservatives pursuing the political policies of smaller government, lower taxes and, to a certain extent, religious morality.
According to a report on a survey of Tea Party members from HuffPost's Sam Stein:
The individuals who make up the Tea Party movement are largely conservative and get their news from Fox; they're generally old and of moderate to low income; and they're fairly convinced that their taxes are going to rise in the next few years, even though they likely won't.
They also have exceedingly poor views of President Obama. In the aforementioned poll, 81 percent of Tea Party respondents disapproved of his job performance.
Through their selection of candidates, it is also safe to say that members of the Tea Party have morphed into a largely socially conservative voting bloc, contrary to earlier beliefs that they would maintain their roots in libertarian social and cultural ideology.
What most separates the Tea Party from the GOP is their lack of predestined allegiance to any party. Though their views clearly put them more in line with Republicans than Democrats, the Tea Party has repeatedly shown its hesitance to support candidates backed by the party's mainline, instead choosing to go with "citizen politicians" with little electoral experience and often possessing some unconventional policy proposals. The movement has also shown its disdain for incumbents, particularly those who it perceives as being moderate -- they've taken to calling them RINOs, or Republicans In Name Only -- or those who voted for the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, which created the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP.
The rising influence of the Tea Party in elections has, however, led Congressional Republicans to push for their representation in the House. In July, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), a darling of the movement, received approval to create a Tea Party Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives, which has since garnered significant support in the chamber.
See below for a rundown of the movement's creation: