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The New York Times Opinion section comments that the Tea Party is redefining mainstream politics. The right-wing fringe group seems to dominate and lead the Republican Party in Congress. In reality, they are losing their momentum. The radical, updated fringe group may well be on the verge of implosion.
They’re afraid… very, very afraid. The Tea Party …is increasingly swimming against the tide of public opinion: among most Americans… its brand was becoming toxic. To embrace the Tea Party carries great political risk for Republicans, but perhaps not for the reason you might think.
A good example of fear and signifying nothing may be one Tea Party member who refused to respond to an interviewers’ questions. At Approximately 11:00 a.m., 18 August, 2011, Christine O’Donnell’s strident retorts and walkout baffled Piers Morgan during an interview. When questioned about the content of her new book, O’Donnell kept insisting she didn’t want to talk about politics. She then asked Morgan, Are we done? and walked out of the studio while the program aired, Morgan quipped, I’m not. It appears that the interview is ended because I had the audacity to ask her what she wrote in her book.
Most politicians experience a negative public opinion of late, but recently collected data by the Washington Post show the Tea Party ranks lower than any of the 23 other groups surveyed—lower than both Republicans and Democrats. The extreme right-wing group is even less popular than much maligned groups such as “atheists” and “Muslims.” One group that approaches the Tea Party in unpopularity is the Christian Right.
Pew research, a non-partisan, non-profit research group, reported a significant drop in the public’s perception of the Tea Party’s effectiveness in Congress since January 2011. The comparative statistics indicate that in January 2011, 27% of respondents believed the “party” had a significant impact on politics, with 18% “negative,” and 35% replied, no effect.” In August, Pew reported that those surveyed changed their responses.
There are other polls that corroborate Pew’s findings that Tea Party disapproval is rising. In April 2010, found that 18% percent of Americans had an unfavorable opinion, 21% were favorable, and 46% did not know enough to comment. In 14 months—in just 14 months— Tea Party supporters have slipped to 20%: their opponents have more than doubled to 40%.
Over the past five years, some polls indicate that Americans are shifting in an economically conservative direction. Many support smaller government, oppose redistribution of income, and favor private charities over government. Tea Party opinions, however, are not supported by an American majority.
The Washington Times interviewed a representative sample of 3,000 Americans in 2006 and again in summer 2011, as a predictor of who would support the Tea Party.
The publication’s results cast doubt on the Tea Party’s “origin story.” Early on, respondents described the Tea Party fringe group as nonpartisan political neophytes. The survey showed that “party” supporters were highly partisan Republicans long before the Tea Party exploded onto the national political scene. They are not attempting to start, as they claim, a “Second Revolution.” Past Republican affiliation is the single strongest predictor of Tea Party support today.
Nor did the Tea Party arise from the “Great Recession” (or Depression). Although many Americans encountered strong financial hardship over the past four years, those struggling are not necessarily supporters of the “party.” Although the “party” publicly focuses on efforts to shrink the government, that concern is neither a concern nor an important predictor of The public image of the Tea Party focuses on a desire to shrink government, concern about big government is not an important predictor of Tea Party support among voters.
The “party” is overwhelmingly White. They have an even lower regard for immigrants and Blacks (long before Barak Obama assumed office) than other White Republicans. They still do.
These fringe groups, identified in 2006, are unchanged in their odium. Other than belonging to the Republican Party, the strongest predictor of a Tea Partier profile is to increase the role of Christianity in American government. They seek politicians who hold their extreme Christian views and ensure those elective officials interject religion into political debates. The Tea Party generals insist their overriding concern is a smaller government, but their rank and file is far more concerned about putting God in government.
The followers’ “God in government” goal explains support for Bachmann and Perry of Texas. Those politicians garner less support about lowering the budget than their overt use of religious language and imagery. This anti-First Amendment jumble of religion and politics has alienated even moderate Republicans. In response, despite Americans’ financial woes, they have become even further opposed to creating a government that mingles religion and politics.
Tea Party supporters are increasingly out of step with most Americans. At the opposite end of the ideological spectrum, today’s Tea Party parallels the anti-Vietnam War movement which supported George McGovern’s candidacy in 1972. The activists brought energy, but also stridency, upon the Democrats. They repelled moderate voters and damaged Democratic support.
In replicating far-left tactics during the 1972 presidential election, the Tea Party could well repeat history.
Mad Mikes America thanks David E. Campbell, an associate professor of political science at Notre Dame, and Robert D. Putnam, a professor of public policy at Harvard, for their Washington Times commentary, CNN, and MMA contributor Wendy Addams.
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