I was surprised at what I found out. The main Tea Party organizers were already in communication with each other in February 2009. Separately, FreedomWorks was organizing grassroots groups against "the Obama agenda" during January 2009 in Virginia and Florida. A woman who attended the FreedomWorks seminar in Tampa organized a protest against Obama's stimulus proposal on February 10 and received national coverage on (wait for it)... Fox News. In Seattle, a local conservative blogger planned an anti-stimulus rally on February 16, and got national attention from Michelle Malkin.
When Rick Santelli yelled on CNBC about subsidizing your neighbor's mortgage when he has a extra bathroom that you don't have, and said he would hold a Chicago tea party in July, the conservatives were ready the next day (Feb. 20) to follow up on his words. Through a large, organized conference call (about 50 activists), they picked a date for multi-city demonstrations one week later on February 27, 2009. They already had their local networks, and turned out an estimated 10,000 protesters that day. Though the protests didn't garner much media attention, the conservative groups remained active and planned even larger protests for April 15, 2009. They also attracted more established conservatives, such as Dick Armey and Newt Gingrich, and, of course, Fox News. That is part of the story of how the Tea Party was born.
So, for my original question: Did the original Tea Party organizers start because they grew tired of Obama's partisanship? No. They were primed to protest even before Obama took office. They didn't even give him a month before they planned actions.
But another question is whether Obama and Congress ever tried to reach out to the GOP and act in a bipartisan way. Did they have a chance but blew it? Or were the compromises never going to be enough? That's a big question. (Answered, more or less, here.)
Nashville TN Tea Party, February 27, 2009
Extras: Tea Party timeline, pre-Tea Party conservative response to Obama."I wish they would have something like this within driving distance for me here in PA. Generally the Harrisburg (capital) radio station's talk radio guys do a good job of rallying up the troops. Keep shining the spotlight of the truth on these guys. Good job." -- Dave