The Tea Party movement is an American political movement that advocates strict adherence to the United States Constitution, reducing U.S. government spending and taxes, and reduction of the U.S. national debt and federal budget deficit.
In the 2010 midterm elections, The New York Times identified 138 candidates for Congress with significant Tea Party support, and reported that all of them were running as Republicans. According to a calculation on an NBC blog, of the candidates that were backed by a Tea Party group, or identified themselves as a Tea Party member, 50% were elected to the Senate and 31% to the House..
The Tea Party does not have a single uniform agenda. The decentralized character of the Tea Party, with its lack of formal structure or hierarchy, allows each autonomous group to set its own priorities and goals. Goals may conflict, and priorities will often differ between groups. Many Tea Party organizers see this as a strength rather than a weakness, as decentralization has helped to immunize the Tea Party against co-opting by outside entities and corruption from within.
The Tea Party has generally sought to avoid placing too much emphasis on traditional conservative social issues. National Tea Party organizations, such as the Tea Party Patriots and FreedomWorks, have expressed concern that engaging in social issues would be divisive. Instead, they have sought to have activists focus their efforts away from social issues and focus on economic and limited government issues. Still, many groups like Glenn Beck's 9/12 Tea Parties, TeaParty.org, the Iowa Tea Party and Delaware Patriot Organizations do act on social issues such as abortion, gun control, prayer in schools, and illegal immigration
The name 'Tea Party' is a reference to the Boston Tea Party, a protest by colonists who objected to a British tax on tea in 1773, without the right to representation, and demonstrated by dumping British tea taken from docked ships into the harbor. Some commentators have referred to the Tea in 'Tea Party' as the backronym 'Taxed Enough Already', though this did not appear until months after the first nationwide protests..
The Tea Party movement is composed of a loose affiliation of national and local groups that determine their own platforms and agendas without central leadership. The Tea Party movement has been cited as an example of grassroots political activity, although it has also been described as an example of corporate-funded astroturfing. Other observers see the organization as having its grassroots element 'amplified by the right-wing media', supported by elite funding. The Tea Party movement is not a national political party; polls show that most Tea Partiers consider themselves to be Republicans and the movement's supporters have tended to endorse Republican candidates. Commentators, including Gallup editor-in-chief Frank Newport, have suggested that the movement is not a new political group but simply a re-branding of traditional Republican candidates and policies.