While tea partiers were heavily involved in last year’s debt deal, which helped bring about the fiscal cliff debate, there’s been a noticeable lack of tea bag-festooned protesters in the federal budget crisis du jour. According to the Washington Post, that may be intentional. Last month more than 100 Tea Party Patriots leaders and state coordinators met in D.C. and decided to take a low-key approach to fiscal cliff negotiations, which is ostensibly why their diminished presence shouldn’t be interpreted as a sign the movement is waning. However, remarks from some tea party activists suggest that they’re just tired of pressuring Republican lawmakers. “Why in the world would I want to get involved in the games they are playing?” said Joe Dugan, a South Carolina tea partier. “I have other things to spend my energy on besides lost causes.’’ Ohio tea party activist Marianne Gasiecki added, “We’re thinking, ‘instead of wasting our time with these people, maybe we should go home and actually enjoy our families for the holidays.’” Tea Party Patriots founder Jenny Beth Martin says Republicans in Congress “have proven they’re not going to listen to us” — so they might as well have their political opinions ignored by family members over a glass of eggnog.
There’s also a more optimistic way of looking at the movement’s current situation: They’ve already done so much yelling that they can sit this one out. Gasiecki says that members of Congress would have to be “blind, deaf and dumb,” if they haven’t heard “what’s been screamed at them for the past four years.’’ Some tea party members see the fiscal cliff as a test to see whether their message has seeped into the Republican party. “We decided to treat Congress like grown-ups and say, ‘Fix it,’’’ says Gasiecki. “It’s like parents who have raised their kids well and step back and say, ‘Prove to us that you’ve been listening.’’’ Obviously, tea partiers could still muster a massive rally if they felt like it, but someone has to act like a responsible adult.