The healthcare debate is where conservative Tea Partiers feel they have had most impact. They are convinced they forced Republicans into opposing the reform and felt they were a crucial factor in getting Scott Brown elected to the Senate seat left vacant by the death of Ted Kennedy.
"On a conference call in December someone said maybe Brown could win and that we should get behind him," Meckler of the Tea Party Patriots said. "The idea gained momentum from there."
People like retirees Calvin and Linda Dykstra wanted to eliminate the Democrats' 60-seat, filibuster-proof majority that helped healthcare reform pass a vote in late December. They drove from western Michigan to Massachusetts in January and spent a week campaigning for Brown.
Speaking at a Tea Party meeting in Manistee, Michigan, the two beamed and blushed like newlyweds, despite being in their mid-60s. "Not everyone had the time or the money to do what we did, but we felt we had to stop the socialist government takeover of healthcare," said Calvin, a former physician.
As the movement has grown, coalitions have formed. In Michigan, Tea Party groups have formed the Michigan Tea Party Alliance with supporters of Glenn Beck's 9.12 Project -- a conservative group that wants America to resume the spirit of unity of September 12, 2001, the day after the September 11 attacks.
"The movement is beginning to coalesce around a core set of principles -- constitutionally limited government, free market ideology and low taxes," said Tony Raymond, who was laid off at consulting company Accenture in March 2009 and is now a leader of the Northern Illinois Patriots.