Two years ago, they were the disaffected.
Today, they say, everyone is disaffected. And they remind everyone else that they got there first.
These are the members of the Tea Party.
They rallied on the historic Morristown Green claiming the space as their own, treading the same hallowed ground as the American Revolutionary War patriots they honored with their tri-cornered hats and flag waving.
Their speakers railed against "Obamacare" and illegal immigration, tax hikes and big government. They called for states' rights and gun rights and held up the individual and freedom as the American ideals, as they told the government to get off their backs.
Derided as the creation of rich oil industrialists and Fox News, they fought back by measuring "establishment" Republican politicians against a conservative yardstick that found most of them too liberal.
Across New Jersey in 2010, seven Tea Party backed candidates ran against establishment Republicans for state or national office. They all lost.
Now, in 2011, the rallies have been few and far between, but the ideas and influence remain and could be growing.
"The growth of the Tea Party is a reflection of the economic times and the lack of leadership at the national level," said Morris County Freeholder Gene Feyl. "Morris County is a microcosm. We are seeing more conservative candidates in reaction to the left drift of the country."
This week, Patch explores the changing face of Morris County's Republican party in 'Morris GOP: 2011.' Check back throughout the week for more, and return next week for "Morris Democrats: 2011."
Among those conservative candidates is Hank Lyon of Montville, —incumbent Margaret Nordstrom of Washington Township in the primary race for the Morris County Freeholder Board. Lyon, who had Tea Party backing, ran a race on the message that the established Nordstrom and her colleagues weren't conservative enough, pointing to their support of open space efforts and taxes.
Freeholder Director William Chegwidden said Morris County is a county of generally conservative Republicanism so many of the Tea Party's ideas—especially those that call for lower taxes and fiscal restraint—resonate.
For Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll of the 25th District, known best for the sort of libertarian ethic often favored by Tea Party purists, the idea of Morris Republicans espousing conservative ideas is not new. But, he said, conservatives are a feisty group and often disagree just to disagree.
Carroll, one of the most conservative Legislators in the state, said the Tea Party is growing. He said he attended many of the Tea Party rallies, and not all the participants were Republicans
"Voters are seeing traditional Republican values in Tea Party," Feyl said. "It is not a surprise they are show up when Republican candidates speak."
Richard Luzzi, a founder of The Morristown Tea Party Inc., said the Tea Party influence is a reflection of the 2010 national election, when 60 members of Congress were tossed out in a record-setting party swing.
"There is a surge in interest in changing the direction of the country," Luzzi said. "There is a revival, a shift back to us."
Luzzi said there is a similarity between the Tea Party and the .
"We are reflections of the concern about the direction of the country, an interest in shaking up the establishment," he said.
The big step is winning elections, said both Luzzi and William Eames, a Tea Party candidate who won the Republican nomination for state Senate in the 27th legislative district—traditionally Democratic territory that, . Eames will face Democrat Richard Codey, a former governor.
Luzzi was one of the seven Tea Party candidates who lost to establishment politicians of both parties in 2010. He lost to Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, a moderate Republican, who was labeled by Luzzi are being insufficiently conservative.
Eames said he jumped into the Republican primary this year because he saw no other candidate who adhered to the Tea Party principles.
The principles are basic: A smaller federal government, fiscal restraint and individual freedom. He said the message is well received when he knocks on doors and speaks with voters.
The Tea Party message resonates because so many are affected by the bad economy and are concerned about the direction of the country, Eames said.
Luzzi said the party has to clarify its message.
"We are not a conservative party, but a foundation party," he said. "We want to go back to the country's fundamentals."
He said the Tea Party needs to overcome its loose structure.
"Traditionally we have been a leaderless organization. We need a better organization for the 2012 elections especially in getting out the vote," he said.
Feyl said the Tea Party ideas are not all that foreign to Morris Republicans.
"The idea of smaller, responsible government is nothing if not mainstream," he said. "But Tea Party candidates are not winning. They need electable candidates, experienced, with solid backgrounds. They need well-rounded candidates."
Eames said with time the Tea Party will develop such candidates.
But like any new organization, there are growing pains.
Chegwidden said his concern is with candidates who base their positions on historically inaccurate information.
Chegwdden, a history teacher, said this is evident in the anti-government, anti-debt positions common in the current political debate.
The United States was in considerable debt before it became a nation, he said, having borrowed money to fight the Revolutionary War. The government built highways and airports, funded the oil business and railroads, and historically has invested in industries and technologies that spurred innovation.
"Like it or not, government is part of who we are," he said. "We move forward collectively. This ability for give-and-take is a Republican trait, but has not been embraced by the Tea Party."
The recent debates in Washington over the federal budget and debt ceiling showed a dark side to the Tea Party message of limited government as politicians jumped through hoops to avoid upsetting the right wing of the Republican party.
"It's okay to to say you want less government," he said, "but when you start cutting services that people need, often less is not what they want."