Forum analyzes impact of Tea Party

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SALT LAKE CITY -- The Tea Party and its supporters already have had a notable impact on politics this year but an even better measure of that impact will come on Election Day.

The Tea Party is credited with bringing energy and new people into the political process. On Election Day, Tea Party-backed candidates are predicted to win enough races -- including here in Utah -- to clearly change the political dynamic in Washington.

Tea Party displeasure with government, particularly federal government overspending, has been expressed at rallies all over the country this year, including in Salt Lake on March 30.

At the time, West Jordan resident Tana Allen said, "Limiting government would be great, getting back to the basics of the constitution. We're so far away from that now, it's sad."

The Tea Partiers were a big part of Republicans having 4 million more people vote in the primaries than they did the last (election).

–Kirk Jowers

Political analysts examined the movement at a Hinckley Institute Forum Friday at the University of Utah. They said that energy has morphed into bona fide political influence, with Tea Party-backers turning out at the polls.

Mark Button, associate professor of political science, said, "It's the energizing of a new set of voters. What we see is that something like 86 percent of the leaders of those grassroots movements say the people who are participating are entirely new to politics."

Republicans had 4 million new voters nationally in their primaries. In some prominent cases, like that of conservative Utah Sen. Bob Bennett, incumbents were dumped.


Matthew Burbank, another associate professor of political science, said, "We're seeing either stronger candidates or sitting incumbents who are losing positions. That's a circumstance which is relatively unusual. We don't see a whole lot of that."

Following Election Day, other incumbents could find themselves looking for a new job. The Tea Party is expected to win enough seats to establish a sizable caucus in Congress to push its agenda.

After that it could be more difficult to help run a federal government it has loudly criticized.

Director of the Hinckley Institute, Kirk Jowers, said, "It's always easier to complain than to govern."

Button asked, "How long will that endure? Will these Tea Party movements still be around trying to organize and mobilize people once the elections are over?"


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John Daley


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