Commentary: Don't Confuse Tea Party Marketing With Its IdealsSuzie Potts
A Gallup poll released Thursday indicates that backing for the tea party has hit near-record lows, as 22 percent of Americans consider themselves supporters. That's down from 32 percent shortly after the 2010 midterm elections. To gauge how conservative and Republican voters feel, Yahoo invited them to share whether they support tea party-affiliated groups. Here's one voter's perspective.
COMMENTARY | TeaPartyPatriots.org states its mission is "to restore America's founding principles of Fiscal Responsibility, Constitutionally Limited Government and Free Markets."
It sounds reasonable. So, why do tea party groups make the public imagine a conspiracy theorist standing at the pulpit with sheep singing his praise? Simple: Early tea party members let the fringe take center stage.
At first glance, this week's Gallup poll proves that the tea party is fading. It shows that, in three years, support for the party has dropped from 32 percent to 22 percent. As a conservative with a libertarian bent, this concerns me, and it's disturbing that a movement created to tout small government is failing at a time of massive government overreach. The question I ask myself is this: "What is the story behind the poll?"
My first memory of the tea party is Nancy Pelosi clenching her teeth as she called it "Astroturf." Her outrage exceeded any tea party marketing campaign. Americans rallied behind the party and joined groups like the one mentioned by Forbes contributor Thomas Basile: "We founded one of the first…Tea Party organizations. We had Republicans, Independents and yes, plenty of Democrats all appreciating that Obama's brand of leadership would mean more government, higher taxes, less freedom and more debt for every American."
Fast forward and the story behind the Gallup poll takes flight. The tea party began with Americans calling for a return to small government, and now men like Jerome Corsi use it to spread words of bigotry and conspiracy. Clearly, the tea party has been hijacked.
But there's good news! The tea party is just a name, and it's fraught with the marketing attached to it. While that marketing surrounding the tea party is failing, the ideals aren't. A recent Rasmussen Poll shows that 63 percent of us believe most Americans want the government to have less power and less money. This demonstrates that Americans aren't disapproving of the tea party because of its ideals, but perhaps because of its current direction.
This week, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, reminded me of the early days of the tea party when compromise was not an option. I had forgotten that. So, while I am not represented by any politicians here in Bridgewater, Conn., with tea party roots, I will be listening to their representatives elsewhere. As far as the next presidential race, I'm not sure whom I will vote for, but I'm likely to support a candidate aligned with the fiscally and constitutionally-minded tea party of 2009.