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.
Recently, Scottie Nell Hughes discussed the left’s relationship with the Tea Party with Media Research Center President Brent Bozell. Discussing the media’s portrayal of the movement, Bozell noted:
“I’ll tell you how the media look at any conservative organization. It begins by ignoring them. And if you can make them go away that way, you’re done. If that doesn’t work, you go to phase two, which is to ridicule them. And if that doesn’t work, you go to phase three, which is to try to destroy them. And if that doesn’t work, then you’re at phase four, where you have to accept the reality that they’re there.”
Bozell is right. The Tea Party was ignored by the media at first as the leftist mouthpieces on the nightly news hoped that it would quickly fade. It didn’t. Then came the “tea-bagger” jokes and ridicule. That didn’t stick. They then tried to destroy it by accusing its supporters of racism — an old trick from the liberal handbook. We’re “racists,” we’re “obstructionists” and now — apparently — we’re covert agents looking to take down the government.
Liberals can call us whatever they want, but we prefer the term “principled.” We support candidates who support the Constitution — what is so threatening about that? We support our elected leaders doing what’s right. We support people like Rand Paul, who on Wednesday gave an old-school, all-day filibuster, preaching the value of freedom and chastising the government for believing it has the legal right to execute American citizens without due process. The left can attack our message, but we’re not going anywhere.
Americans support our core principles over so-called “progressive” principles by a 2-to-1 margin. This is an inconvenient reality for liberals, who have dedicated so much time, money and energy to demonizing our movement. At what point will they finally accept that we’re here to stay?