Tea Party Patriots leader Mark Meckler issues a blunt warning to Congress: His group is “going to be dramatically engaged in the primaries – on both sides of the aisle,” in 2012.
Michael Bonfigli / The Christian Science Monitor
Tea party leader Mark Meckler issued a blunt warning to members of the House of Representatives on Wednesday, saying "2012 is going to be extraordinarily different" than 2010, and that his group is “going to be dramatically engaged in the primaries – on both sides of the aisle,” next year.
Tea party groups played a significant role in Republicans taking control of the House in 2010. Many of the 87-member GOP freshman class, who will stand for re-election for the first time in 2012, came to Congress with tea party support. Even greater tea party participation, if it actually materializes, could be be an important factor in determining which party controls Congress after 2012.
Speaking at a Monitor-sponsored breakfast for reporters, Mr. Meckler, co-founder and national coordinator of the Tea Party Patriots, dubbed the current political system “the incumbency protection system," adding, "We actually have a two-party political system: It is called the incumbents versus the citizens.”
Tea Party Patriots is the nation’s largest tea party organization. It claims 3,500 locally affiliated groups. When the group’s supporters were informally surveyed this week on their feelings about the House of Representatives, 71.7 percent said they were "not satisfied” with the performance of the House, according to Jenny Beth Martin, another Tea Party Patriots national coordinator who also spoke at the breakfast.
“Our folks are dissatisfied with both political parties and are looking for true leaders in Congress,” Ms. Martin said.
Meckler said said that with more experienced tea party workers on the ground across the country, “You are going to see, I think, massive turnover in the primaries – and a much larger turnover in the general election than we saw in 2010."
Incumbents are at risk for another reason, too: redistricting. As a result of the 2010 census, congressional districts are being redrawn to account for changes in populations. Some incumbents' districts will change composition dramatically.