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The Tea Party is a supposed populist political movement in the United States that sponsored a series of locally and nationally coordinated protests in 2009 and 2010. It is generally characterized as a conservative- or libertarian-leaning movement with an emphasis on reducing government spending, lowering taxes, reducing the national debt and federal budget deficit, and adherence to an originalist interpretation of the United States Constitution.
The Tea Party movement has no central leadership but is composed of a loose affiliation of national and local groups that determine their own platforms and agendas. For this reason, the Tea Party movement is often cited as an example of grassroots political activity, although it has also been cited as an example of astroturfing.
Astroturfing denotes political, advertising, or public relations campaigns that are formally planned by an organization, but are disguised as spontaneous, popular "grassroots" behavior. The term refers to AstroTurf, a brand of synthetic carpeting designed to look like natural grass.
The goal of such campaigns is to disguise the efforts of a political and/or commercial entity as an independent public reaction to some political entity—a politician, political group, product, service or event.
Because the Tea Party's most noted national figures include highly seasoned Republican politicians such as Dick Armey and Sarah Palin, nearly all Tea Party candidates have run as Republicans, and almost 80% of Tea Partiers consider themselves to be Republicans, certain observers have suggested that the "movement" is not a new political group, but simply a marketing tool for traditional Republican candidates and policies.