Tea Party Activists 'People of the Year?'

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Perhaps the best "2009 person of the year" is not a person at all-- but rather the group of Americans that rallied across the nation for issues important to them.

The tea party movement was born by frustration with government spending, a bad economy and massive changes to the nation's health care system.

"I think that the person of 2009, the person who had the hugest impact in this country and really around the world is the activist, the tea party activist, the regular American who just got up and said enough is enough," said Phil Kerpin of Americans for Prosperity.

So-called tea party patriots invaded the phone lines, inboxes and mailboxes of their congressmen over the summer. And when lawmakers went home in August, tea partiers crowded their town hall meetings and demanded answers.

Later groups filled Capitol Hill and even paid a "house call" to members of Congress urging them not to pass a government-run health insurance plan.

Their rallies were not without controversy though.

Critics of the movement complain about inappropriate signs, like one of President Obama as Hitler.

Actress Janeane Garafalo called members of the movement racist, accusing them of being motivated by rage against the new black president.

"They were indeed motivated a lot by racism." she said. :You saw some of those signs, did you not? And if they are upset about fiscal imprudence where were they for the last eight years?"

CBN News took to the sidewalks in Washington, D.C. for more opinions. Click play to watch.

The phenomenon was already felt in New York's 23rd congressional district where a conservative third party candidate forced the Republican candidate out of the race.

No matter which party benefits, Kerpen says the new activists are expected to be heavily involved come election time, working precincts, donating to campaigns and volunteering for candidates they think will deliver the change they believe in.

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Jennifer Wishon

CBN News White House Correspondent

Jennifer Wishon is the White House correspondent for CBN News based in the network’s Washington, D.C. Bureau.  Before taking over the White House beat, Jennifer covered Capitol Hill and other national news, from the economy to the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  Follow Jennifer on Twitter @JenniferWishon and "like" her at Facebook.com/JennWishon.