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'Tea party' movement: Who are they and what do they want?

Tea Party Nation convention starts Thursday. Questions and answers about the tea party movement and how it might affect the 2010 elections.

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Tax Day Tea Party: Tamara Schirrmacher dressed up as the Statue of Liberty, with chains representing the national debt, at a rally in Pleasanton, Calif., last April.

Paul Sakuma/AP/File

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Of all the protest signs at all the rallies and town-hall meetings where people gathered last year to object to Washington's plans to save the US economy and reform healthcare, this hand-lettered one is memorable: "You can't fix stupid, but you can vote it out."

That's the "tea party" movement in a nutshell.

The left paints the movement as a largely white and middle-class mob – and as including kooks who equate President Obama with Joseph Stalin.

There's some truth to that view. But where some see a bunch of white people standing in the way of progress, others see a growing expression of dissatisfaction with what former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) calls the "neomonarchists."

Ahead of the Tea Party Nation convention in Nashville, Tenn., slated for Feb. 4-6, here's a look at the tea party movement – its birth, its leadership, and its aspirations.

When – and why – was the tea party movement born?

CNBC editor Rick Santelli's on-air "rant" last February about a proposed mortgage bailout is widely considered to be the "big bang" moment for the birth of the movement.

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