This coming April, the Tea Party movement will celebrate its one-year anniversary. In Iowa, Tea Party members organized rallies throughout the state on April 15th and July 4th, they then organized a Tea Party convention of their own last November. Nationally, the Tea Party movement held a convention in Nashville this past weekend. The event received a tremendous amount of media coverage, some of which was probably generated from the person who gave the keynote address, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.
Yesterday, the Des Moines Register released some of the information from its Iowa Poll. The poll asked if people supported the Tea Party movement regardless of their political affiliation. Forty-five percent of those surveyed said that they did not consider themselves to be supporters of the Tea Party movement, but 33% did. The interesting part of the Iowa Poll is that, of the the 33% who support the Tea Party, 49% are independents, 34% are Republicans, and 17% are Democrats. Many people have wrongfully assumed that the Tea Party movement was mostly a Republican effort. It’s not.
Even with all the state and national conventions, the media attention, and the countless of groups that the Tea Party movement has created in the last year, it remains undefined, unorganized, and without a core mission.
As it stands right now, the Tea Party movement in Iowa can be all things to all people. Some Republicans who are upset with the GOP’s lack of focus on social issues have sought refuge with the Tea Party. At the same time, moderate or libertarian Republicans who think that the GOP focuses too much on social issues have also joined the Tea Party ranks.
Ironically, when well known Republicans like Haley Barbour, who is the chairman of the Republican Governors Association, promote a big tent philosophy, many well known social conservatives get angry and upset. Yet, some of these people have become the loudest supporters of the Tea Party movement, which is funny because the Tea Party movement is nothing more than the ultimate big tent.
For the most part, the Tea Party is comprised of people who think that our leaders in Washington D.C. are out of touch with the people on Main Street. They opposed the Wall Street bailout, out of control spending, massive debt and deficits, and much of President Obama’s agenda. However, if it ever chooses to be an actual third party, it will be forced to address a number of issues that are divisive to many within its own ranks.
Right now, the Tea Party benefits from being the ‘none of the above’ option for the American people. Yet, if they ever want to be more than a loose confederation of independent groups, they will have to tackle issues that they currently don’t have to deal with. This is why it may be in the best interest of the Tea Party to remain ambiguous.
While the media is captivated by the Tea Party movement, its members are merely doing what the founders of our government thought all citizens should do – hold their elected officials accountable. For far too long the general public has been apathetic about what is going on at all levels of government. Once in a while, the silent majority of American would be aroused to defeat things like nationalized healthcare in the nineties, or blanket amnesty to illegals just a few years ago, but after those issues settle down, the people would simply go back to their normal lives.
This is where the Tea Party movement is different. For almost a year now, they have found a way to stay active and engaged even as the issue set has changed. If one had to guess what was fueling the Tea Party movement, it would have to be the liberal agenda that President Obama, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi continue to pursue even thought the public vehemently opposes their proposals. Without this liberal agenda to fight, the Tea Party could be over.
There is no doubt that a number of people, myself included, consider themselves to be supportive of the Tea Party movement. We will begin to see what kind of effect the Tea Party is having in the June primaries as well as in November. While it is safe to assume that more people will go to the polls, I don’t think we are about to see a radical shift once the ballots are counted.
What the Tea Party movement is really about is holding all of our elected officials accountable to the will of the people, regardless of political affiliation. This is something to celebrate and something that members of both parties should embrace. The sad part is that it is the one thing that our founders expected us to do from day one, and it’s the one thing we’ve failed to do – until now.
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