Tea Party might not be what you think

October 4, 2010 8:39:32 PM PDT
With midterm elections just weeks away, the Tea Party is turning into a force with the potential to change the nation's political scene. Local Tea Party followers say the perception most people have of them is wrong. So what's right?

In the last 20 months, the Tea Party has gone from a small band of political outsiders to a massive movement that could shape this November's election.

And while it's true that most of them tend to be conservatives, your picture of the Tea Party might not exactly match with who its members say they are.

So who are the people of the Tea Party and what drives them to rally and protest and organize?

To better understand them, on the eve of the 2010 midterms, Eyewitness News met with three women, including Felicia Cravens, founder of the Houston Tea Party Society.

"The nation is better off when more people are involved politically," Cravens said.

Natalie Arceneaux is host of the Civil Right website. She also is a member of the Tea Party.

"We're looking for fiscal responsibility, elected officials to adhere to the oath that they keep when they swear to the constitution, smaller, less intrusive government," Arceneaux said.

And ABC13 also spoke with Nancy Dunham with Organizing for Liberty.

"I'd been sitting on my behind for a long time, really upset about what was going on and not getting active," Dunham said.

None of them fit what you might expect.

"As soon as you set up one stereotype -- old, white, rich, wrinkled, Republican, whatever -- you find 10 people right down the road who bust that," Cravens said.

The Tea Party, according to these three, is dominated by women, despite what most people see on national television.

"You'll see men on CNN; you'll see men on FOX News. It's very interesting to me that we find so many men carrying the message of a movement led by so many women," Cravens said.

"I think women are more in touch with the pocketbook than men are, and I think that might be one of the contributing factors," Arceneaux said.

"I never thought about it, but I think ? the point at which an economy begins to affect you first is that point -- is the places and the small dollar value transactions that women are chiefly in charge of," Cravens said.

They say the movement does not have a national leader, though some might say the party's face is a Former Alaska Governor and vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin.

"She certainly has sucked up a lot of the oxygen in terms of the national conversation," Cravens said of Palin. "Once you've allowed someone to personify your group, you end up with a limitation on you that you can't really escape."

"Even though she's not an elected official, she's still somebody who if she says it, then it must be true -- well, no; that's what got us here to begin with, because we started listening to our supposed heroes" Arceneaux said.

The women acknowledge there are extremists within their ranks but say the majority is rational thinkers who want results.

"I think the anger that you see right now at the policies in our government that are affecting us right now, the anger at the Republicans if they don't listen, this anger is going to be nothing in comparison," Dunham said.

Interestingly, the women believe the Tea Party itself is short-lived, that it'll run its course, but that its ideas live on beyond the name.


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