Way back in the beginning, the Tea Party caught my interest. Initially calling themselves supporters of smaller government and lower taxes, it seemed like they were a political group that might represent a change from the conservative politics that brought us the likes of George W. Bush.
It quickly became obvious that the Tea Party was far from serious, especially when Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck became prominent figureheads of their movement. Between the paranoid screaming about death panels in Obamacare and the support for radical anti-government figures like Cliven Bundy or the Oath Keepers, most reasonable people realized this wasn’t a group that could bring positive change to politics.
Before long, the Tea Party splintered into factions, and a whole lot of grifting. As an example, a website claiming to represent them, Tea Party News Nation, eventually devolved into posting viral fight videos for web traffic. Currently boasting over 1.3 million followers, TPNN now posts mostly links from a number of conservative clickbait sites like their own and Conservative Tribune – because reaffirming the paranoid beliefs of angry right-wingers is extremely profitable.
Almost two-thirds (63%) of conservative Republicans were supporters in the earliest polls. About four in 10 (42%) still support the Tea Party, but the 21-percentage-point drop since the 2010 polls is second only to the plunge in support from Republican leaners (independents who lean toward the GOP). A majority (52%) of GOP leaners, a key source for Republican votes, were supporters in the 2010 polls, but a 29-point drop has left only 23% still supporting the movement.
On the other side, liberal Democrats were the strongest opponents (61%) in the two 2010 polls, and their opposition was almost as high (59%) in the two most recent polls. (Source)
There are conservatives out there that may mean well, despite the fact that they’re terribly wrong on important issues like income inequality or gay rights. Conservative politics has drifted ever further to the right over the last couple of decades, and the Republican Party I was raised in 20 years ago seems almost reasonable when compared to where they are today.
The Tea Party isn’t just increasingly unpopular; they’ve been reduced to shrill talking points like screaming at people who receive government assistance while generally ignoring the fact that most of those people are employed by corporations who won’t pay a living wage. This simplistic mindset is exemplified in a political candidate, Donald Trump, who speaks at an elementary school level and doesn’t tell the truth about practically anything.
I would like to think that conservatives, especially members of the Tea Party who advocate for limited government, wouldn’t be behind laws and candidates who invade personal privacy and Constitutional rights – but that’s exactly what they’ve been doing with one bill after another.
With the impending ouster of Speaker John Boehner and the current fight over who will succeed him, it has been increasingly obvious that the Tea Party has become the lunatics who are now running the GOP asylum. Establishment Republicans have tried to court them and isolate them at the same time, with disastrous results.
Perhaps, as the poll suggests, Republicans are waking up to the fact that the Tea Party is a major danger to their political relevance. The problem for them is that with all of the damage that has been done, it may already be too late.
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