The Influence of the Tea Party Movement

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1. Introduction

The United States of America are a classical example of a political two-party system . (cp. McDonald/Samples, 2006: 18). The Republican party and the Democrat party ...

However, at the beginning of 2009, a new influential non-party player appeared in the political arena. The Tea Party Movement succeeded to considerably influence the 2010 elections to the House of Representatives and the Senate in the United States. Their main positions which can be found in their “Contract from America” (Tea Party Movement, 2010) played a major role in the election campaigns of both the Republican and the Democratic Party (...). The Tea Party advocates for a better control of the constitutional competences of Congress, for fewer environmental regulations that may have negative impact on the economy, for a balanced bugdet, for a single-rate tax system reform, for a smaller and more efficient administration as well as federal-level, state-level and local-level subsidiarity, for a reduction of federal government spending growth, for a more market-based health care system, for a reduction of the dependence on foreign energy sources, for more restrictive rules for the use of earmarks and for a repeal of all currently scheduled tax increases (ibid.). Their positions can be summed up as a strong stance against 'big government', especially Federal government.

Building on a spatial rational choice framework of party competition developed by Anthony Downs, I seek to analyze in this paper what the reasons are that enable the the Tea Party Movement to force the established parties, foremost the Republican party, to adopt many of their positions in their election campaigns. In line with this, the central research question of this paper i...

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...pates that the Tea Party Movement might become an actual party directly participating in the U.S. party competition by running Candidates in all kinds of elections - state, federal or even Presidential. The “Grand Old Party” shifts its position on 'big government' close to the Tea Party's positions to take away their incentives to run their own candidates since their interest then will be already advocated by the Republicans. While doing this, the G.O.P accepts that this behavior could actually weaken their own position in elections since the Democrats could also try to shift their positions further right, absorbing some of the traditional Republican voters. But for the Republican party, this option is the lesser of two evils: as our analysis has shown, the creation of an actual Tea-Party party could substantially endanger the Republican party's political survival.

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