The first rumbling that the party may be ending is in, and for more than a few it's none too soon. The party in this case is the Tea Party. Two things in rapid succession signaled that the light may be dimming for the party. A recent CNN poll shows that more, far more Americans, now have an unfavorable view of the Tea Party than a year ago. Even more ominous for the Tea Party, the biggest number that expressed disaffection with the party is lower income Americans, for the most part whites.
They have been one of the bedrocks of support for the Tea Party. Their crude borderline racist signs, Confederate flags, Texas Lone Star flags, and the posters that depicted a Hitler or demented looking President Obama were on full display and virtual fixtures at countless local and national Tea Party street actions in the year after Obama's election. They were the shock troops in the streets for Tea Party leaders and groups. They have deserted in droves.
The second bad note for the tea Party is the budget fight that has torn up Congress, and threatens to decimate legions of education, health, social service and law enforcement programs locally and nationally. In November, Tea Party backed candidates scored big victories and even upsets of GOP incumbents in a number of races.
They had one mantra and that was to shrink government, and shrink it fast. Millions of Americans cheered their war call, and voted for the candidates that yelped it the loudest. But it's one thing to scream about big government, bloated federal spending, and whopping federal debts, and it's quite another to actually hold Congress, and by extension, the nation hostage in an uncompromising, shrill battle to accomplish that. It's even worse when the hostage takers start ticking off a telephone thick list of programs that will either be cut, if not outright eliminated, and then compound that by demanding that Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security either be radically downsized, or dumped in the exclusive hands of private providers, and corporations. The shouts about knocking down big government all of a sudden take on a different sound. That's a sound that millions of Americans that rely on government services, programs, employment, contracts, and payments of every kind suddenly don't like the sound of.
Since that's been the only sound heard from the Tea Party leaders within and without Congress, that has caused more Americans than ever to have second, and even bad thoughts about the Tea Party. Polls repeatedly show that the majority of Americans want Congress and the Obama administration to work in tandem to solve the big ticket problems of the economy, joblessness, and debt reduction. But they want them to do it in a responsible way without the relentless carping, sniping, bickering, finger pointing and political gamesmanship that has been the trademark of the GOP egged on by the Tea Party.
But the Tea Party tune marchers in Congress haven't gotten that message. And while President Obama, House and Senate leaders frantically tried to hammer out a budget compromise to keep the doors of federal agencies open, and tens of thousands of federal employees on the job, Tea Party zealots, led by the top Tea Party polarizer, Minnesota congresswoman Michelle Bachman screamed "shut it down" at rallies, on websites, blogs, and any other venue that they could get some attention.
The quiet backlash against the Tea Party hasn't been lost on GOP mainstream leaders, who even in the best of Tea Party days were anxious, if not downright terrified, that their shock battalions might get to unruly, and go too far overboard, and alienate the moderate and conservative independents that they got back in the GOP fold in the November midterm elections, and need to keep in the fold to have any chance of beating Obama in 2012. They are watching in horror as that chance may be slipping away with the over reach antics and intransigence of the Tea Party in Congress, and the growing disgust of millions of Americans, at it for it.
This in no way is to write the obituary for the Tea Party. There are still millions that despite the consequences of the draconian government cuts the Tea Party is bound and determined to ram through Congress, still think the idea of smaller government, caps on spending, and debt reduction are noble goals worth fighting for. But the polls show that even that fight has limits, and if Tea Party leaders and activists can't or won't figure that out then it's a sure bet that the plunging popularity of the Tea Party won't take an upturn. The one person who will smile the broadest at that prospect is the man that the Tea Party has loved to loath, and that's the man who sits in the Oval Office.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He hosts a national Capitol Hill broadcast radio talk show on KTYM Radio Los Angeles and WFAX Radio Washington D.C. streamed on The Hutchinson Report Newsmaker Hour on blogtalkradio.com and wfax.com and internet TV broadcast on thehutchinsonreportnews.com
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