The left has never really known what to do with the Tea Party. In the beginning of our movement, the left was quick to deny the very existence of our grassroots efforts, calling it “Astroturf” — the product of evil, corporate interests that, somehow, were financing every handmade sign being waved across the country.
The problem was, that narrative never really stuck. How could it? You can only blame the Koch brothers for so long. But just as quickly as liberals had jumped to deny our existence as a movement, they jumped to the other extreme — that there once was a Tea Party movement, but it is, essentially, no more.
And yet, whenever liberals are dealt a defeat, they blame it on the Tea Party.
Liberals bounce back and forth between dismissing our efficacy and blaming us for our role in thwarting their agenda. Recently, former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich discussed at length a supposed Tea Party conspiracy to “eviscerate the U.S. government.” Calling Tea Partiers “plotters” in a conspiracy to “dismantle pieces of [the government],” Reich discussed the far-reaching impact of the movement. While I appreciated the message of, “Watch out, they’re coming,” in truth, the piece made me laugh.
It turns out that while Reich seems to look under his bed each night, fearing he might find a Gadsden flag-waving patriot, he and other liberals are right to worry; the Tea Party is very much alive and kicking and the numbers show as much.
In a recent survey done by NSON, a non-partisan polling agency, Americans identified with the Tea Party principles of limited government, free markets and personal responsibility by a margin of 2-to-1 over the progressive principles of big government, higher taxes, more spending, more regulations and more government programs.
In the poll, 47.8% of respondents identified with “Tea Party principles” while 20.6% of respondents identified with “progressive principles.” Another 22.8% responded “Neither/Other/Somewhere in the middle” and 8.8% responded “Don’t know.” The poll did not ask for respondents’ party affiliations, but it did identify their genders and geographic locations. The poll has a margin of error of 4.38%.
In the wake of the November elections, liberals were eager to spread the narrative that the Tea Party was dead, that our message of limited government and fiscal responsibility no longer resonated with Americans. But it turns out that half of America subscribes to those Tea Party ideas.
In January, Rasmussen found that only eight percent of Americans identify as Tea Partiers. The poll got a lot of attention in the media. But it’s a misleading result. The question Rasmussen asked implied that in order to be a Tea Partier, one must be an activist, someone who dedicates her weekends to protests and is a card-carrying member of an organization. But the Tea Party is a movement, not a political party. If someone believes in constitutionally limited government and free markets, then they believe in the core tenets of the Tea Party. They may “identify” as whatever they like. They may claim to be “conservative,” “libertarian” or “Republican”— the important thing is that Americans value these vital principles.