Are you drinking the tea?

For the better part of the last two years, driven largely by local and national protests, the anti-tax Tea Party movement has continued to attract followers.

Many of the protests that fueled the growth heading into the 2010 midterm elections were in response to the financial bailouts of the banks and automotive industry, the federal stimulus package and the health care reform bill.

"I believe this was building through 2008," said Stephen Bloom, a Carlisle attorney and Republican nominee for the 199th Legislative District seat in the state House.

There was pent-up frustration about the direction of the government, Bloom said, explaining that the first bailout bill under President Bush was when he started to sense "a sea change."

"Government was rewarding those that failed," he said, which angered a lot of people.

CNBC Business News editor Rick Santelli simply put a name on it, Bloom noted. In February 2009, Santelli spoke out against the Homeowners Affordability and Stability Plan, the government plan to refinance mortgages, accusing the government of "promoting bad behavior," and raising the possibility of a "Chicago Tea Party."

Bloom, a strong fiscal and social conservative, has run on a platform that closely mirrors the Tea Party mantra of cutting taxes and the scope of government, while protecting our individual freedoms as Americans.

His message, which can be compared to those of several victorious Republican Tea Party-backed candidates across the country - many in federal races - is one that is clearly resonating among voters.

"To me, one of the really exciting things is that Americans are rediscovering and rereading our founders," Bloom said.

Bloom has said he strongly favors returning to a true part-time citizen Legislature, as our founders intended.

Reducing government interference, especially when it comes to constraints put on small business owners, will be one of his primary objectives, if elected, he said.

Bloom, also an economics professor at Messiah College, has said the power of the free market to lift individuals and whole societies is essential to the future of this state and country.

‘Reverse course'

Our current direction as a nation is "unsustainable," said Bloom, referring to the high level of government spending.

"We've got to reverse course and rediscover our founding principles," he said. "It's time for Americans who are proud of our country to stand up and say so. Maybe that's what the essence of the Tea Party is."

Bloom sees the Tea Party as a "healthy push" for the Republican Party to return to its stated core values and principles - back to its conservative base at all levels of government.

"The Tea Party is helping to reclaim fiscal conservatism," he said. "We have got to stop out of control spending at all levels."

Cumberland County GOP Chairman Vic Stabile said the Tea Party movement and related 9-12 Project, a personal responsibility group created by Glenn Beck, have been good for the party.

Locally, our representatives are largely fiscal conservatives, so there hasn't been the backlash from these groups to take down incumbents, Stabile said.

"I think, for the most part, people involved in these movements are people who have become concerned, anxious, angry and disgusted with what they see government doing," he said. "These are people who have never been active before that have been awakened. They are demanding we return to fundamentals and that the direction of the country be righted."

Because Tea Party and 9-12 Project supporters are predominantly Republicans, Stabile said the party is encouraging these folks to be active in the GOP.

They have done that in Cumberland County.

According to Pam Fenicle, co-founder of the Carlisle Area 9-12 Project, at least 10 members were elected to the county's Republican committee in the primary election.

"We share a lot of the same views," said Stabile. "We're not proud of the fact that the last administration took us deep into debt. But what has happened since then has added even more debt load."

The party chairman from Middlesex Township said there is clearly a resurgence and recommitment to fiscal responsibility and fiscal conservatism, which could mean positive outcomes for the GOP in the fall. The state GOP hopes to take back majority control of the House and elect a Republican governor.

"You're looking at Joe Q Public, the silent majority that has been awakened," Stabile added, referring to the growth of these groups and results at the polls so far this year.

Awakening

The 9-12 Project activists do not identify with any major political party. They choose to focus on education, as a pro-limited government movement that favors things like honesty, hope, humility, hard work, personal responsibility and gratitude.

"Character and integrity are our big reasons for electing someone," Fenicle said. That has to be balanced with their positions on policies, she added, though noting that the group does not formally endorse candidates since it is non-partisan.

Since forming in the fall of 2009, the local group, which meets weekly (except for over the summer), has amassed about 130 people on its membership rolls.

"They're sick and tired of the arrogance," she said about why people opt to get involved in the 9-12 Project. "They're tired of our representatives that are supposed to be representing them disregarding us and disrespecting us. They don't even care what we think or what we want them to do. They do what they want."

One group of 100 people isn't going to have a big impact on change. However, many groups of 100 people across the country can, Fenicle said.

Similar 9-12 Project groups have popped up over the last year in the region in areas like Hanover, York, Chambersburg and the West Shore.

"We are trying to educate others. We are losing our freedoms, one by one," Fenicle added. "We are trying to wake people up. A lot of people don't realize that we're losing our country."

National impact

Over this 2010 election cycle, Tea Party-backed candidates have experienced mixed results at the polls.

Some of the key victories include:

• Sharron Angle winning the Nevada U.S. Senate GOP primary race.

Angle, who believes in small government and lower taxes, will face Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in November.

• State Rep. Nikki Haley beat out three Republican rivals in the South Carolina primary race for governor. She defeated the second-place finisher, U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett, in a run-off election last month.

• Paul LePage won the GOP primary for governor in Maine.

• Anna Little defeated Republican "establishment" candidate Diane Gooch in the Republican primary for the 6th Congressional District in New Jersey.

• Rand Paul won the GOP Senate primary in Kentucky.

• Kristi Noem won the Republican primary in South Dakota for the at-large congressional seat.

• Tim Scott won the Republican primary in South Carolina for the 1st Congressional District seat.

• Local Tea Party support helped Scott Brown in the U.S. Senate race in Massachusetts.

U.S. Sen. Bob Bennett's loss in Utah was seen as a victory for the Tea Party movement as Bennett voted for the health care bill.

Tea Party candidates who lost their bids for office included Chuck DeVore, who lost the GOP Senate primary in California to Carly Fiorina.

Republican Pennsylvania gubernatorial contender Sam Rohrer also failed to win the GOP nomination over Tom Corbett.

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