Five goals from the tea parties
Leaders want to repeal health care, cut federal programs.
What happens if the tea parties win in November?
If candidates sympathetic to the movement gain power, the activists will have influence inside the halls of the Capitol for the first time. We asked tea-party leaders what they plan to do once they can put down the protest signs and participate in lawmaking.
Unsurprisingly, different groups within the movement had different ideas of what should happen next.
Some in the intentionally leaderless movement want to focus on social issues like immigration, others on fiscal concerns like tax credits. Another faction wants to avoid policy altogether and remain focused on election campaigns.
But they appear to share at least five common goals for the next year:
* Repeal the health-care law. Opposition to the Democrats' health overhaul continues to bind the movement. Activists are working on state-level initiatives to undo the health-care mandate, and they fully expect conservative lawmakers to try the same at the federal level next year.
"Those that won't support the overturn of health care are going to be targeted in 2012," said William Temple, a Georgia tea partyer known for dressing up in Founding Fathers costumes at rallies.
* Cut entitlement programs. Many activists believe the way to downsize the federal government is to cut back on social security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Even those tea partyers who benefit from such programs could get behind it, Seattle-based activist Keli Carender said.
"We're going to have to have a real conversation, and an uncomfortable one. We have to sacrifice," she said.
* Hold the newly elected accountable. After spending months helping tea-party supporters get elected, tea-party activists know they will have to keep a watchful eye on Congress to make sure their investments pay off.
"The real work begins on November 3," Greg Holloway of the Austin Tea Party Patriots said. "We need to make sure that people in all areas of government, federal especially, vote along the principles that they will be elected upon."
If they don't, tea partyers plan to fall back on tried-and-true protest tactics against the lawmakers.
* Focus on local races. Not everyone wants to focus on policy. Some tea partyers believe their movement should be an electoral one, focused on infiltrating government at all levels so that conservatives gain long-term power.
"It's time to put down the protest sign and pick up the campaign sign," said Mark Williams, the controversial tea partyer who recently became president of a third party, Conservative Party U.S.A.
* Pick a presidential candidate. Tea parties clashed in some Congressional districts over which candidate to support in midterm elections. They can't afford to disagree when it comes to the 2012 presidential race, Judson Phillips of Tea Party Nation said.
"A lot of groups are realizing that we don’t have to like each other and we don't have to get along, but we do have common goals and we need to find a strategy or we'll be screwed," he said.
-- Ambreen Ali, Congress.org
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