The tea party turns 5: What does the future hold?

It was five years ago that Rick Santelli, a CNBC anchor, decided he had enough of the various programs being passed to bail out the U.S. economy. On the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, he delivered one of his famous rants against the Obama administration's latest mortgage modification program and the "losers" who would soon see taxpayer subsidies to help them keep their homes.

"How many people want to pay for your neighbor's mortgages that has an extra bathroom and can't pay their bills? Raise their hand!" Santelli roared at the traders who surrounded him on the floor. When they sounded their disapproval, he asked, "President Obama, are you listening?"

Five years later, Santelli describes the rant as the "match in a tinder box" that sparked the tea party, a grassroots movement of Americans who embrace fiscal responsibility. He said it was the raw, non-political correct nature of the speech that touched people around the country. A week after the rant, there were 48 protests around the country.

On Thursday, the Tea Party Patriots - an organization that boasts more than 3,000 voluntarily affiliated smaller chapters - will host a fifth anniversary party in Washington that features Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky.; Ted Cruz, R-Texas; and Mike Lee, R-Utah - politicians that rose to prominence with the tea party's help - as well as a host of others who support the tea party's cause.

The tea party's influence was unleashed after the 2010 midterm elections, when the Republicans took over the House of Representatives and ended the two years of full Democratic control of Congress and the White House. The act of legislating fundamentally changed: no longer was the debt ceiling increased as a routine matter or budgets approved without heightened scrutiny. Threats of a government shutdown over spending bills finally gave way to an actual government shutdown in October of 2013, spurred on by opposition to the Affordable Care Act.

"I think that one of the greatest things that the tea party has done is we have seen how Washington operates and across the country citizens are more informed about the games that politicians play regardless of their party," said Jenny Beth Martin, the president and co-founder of Tea Party Patriots. "We expect that we will have a debt-free future. It may take us a bit longer to get to that future than we would like, but we are going to make sure that we leave a debt-free future to our children because it's not fair to them to be stuck with bills our generation has occurred."

But the tea party's increasing political power also brought a rift within the Republican Party. Not all Republicans share their unyielding fealty to pure fiscal conservatism. Tea party Republicans make up 42 percent of the party as a whole, and they want more ideological purity. According to the latest CBS News/New York Times poll, 50 percent say their party's candidates are not conservative enough, compared to the two-thirds of Democrats and 41 percent of all Republicans who think their candidates are about right, ideologically.

"They are a large and important faction of the party," said Sarah Dutton, the director of CBS News' Election and Survey Unit. That could have implications for future Republican candidates, she said.

"Half of tea party Republicans think their party's candidates are not conservative enough, but just 19 percent of non-tea partiers see Republican candidates that way. In fact, 35 percent of non-tea party Republicans think their party's candidates are too conservative," Dutton said.

The poll shows that the tea party Republicans are actually more conservative than the rest of their party on a variety of issues. Sixty-three percent of those affiliated with the tea party believe same-sex marriage should be illegal, compared to just 50 percent of non-tea party Republicans. Eighty-eight percent say the health care law should be repealed entirely, a view shared by just 57 percent of those who do not affiliate with the tea party - 40 percent of them just say the law needs changes.

The divide continues on raising the minimum wage (70 percent of tea partiers oppose, versus 45 percent of non tea-partiers), belief that global warming does not exist (34 percent to 9 percent) and a believe that only spending cuts should be used to reduce the deficit (52 percent to 39 percent).

Navigating the divide in his conference has been tough for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who has struggled to put together governing majorities on a range of issues. Most recently, he sought various policy concessions that the party would approve of in exchange for extending the Treasury's borrowing authority, only to come up short of the necessary 218 votes each time. Ultimately the House voted to avert a default with almost all Democrats and just a handful of Republicans.

The poll found that 82 percent of tea party Republicans disapproved of the vote, a number that was just 57 percent among non-tea partiers. Boehner's struggle to manage the conference may account for his relatively low approval ratings among members of his own party: just 33 percent of Republicans approve of the job he is doing as speaker, a number that actually rises to 35 percent among tea party Republicans.

One other important distinction between the two factions of the Republican Party: tea party supporters are more optimistic about the future. Fifty-eight percent of that group say they are mostly hopeful, 10 points more than the rest of the party.

Martin wants to reflect on accomplishments Thursday but also look to the next five years and beyond. The agenda won't just be about fiscal conservatism: the tea party is ready to confront NSA surveillance and continue fighting to repeal Obamacare.

Her address, she said, will be about "ways that we can ensure that everyone is able to pursue their own American dream."

"A lot of people in this country think that they already have the freedom to do that yet when they see that the NSA is listening to every phone conversation and email that citizens of this country send, that we can no longer choose the healthcare plan that meets our needs without the government mandating what we must purchase, we see that Washington doesn't actually cherish freedom the way we do," she said.

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for