A Gallup poll released Thursday indicates that backing for the tea party has hit near-record lows, as 22 percent of Americans consider themselves supporters. That's down from 32 percent shortly after the 2010 midterm elections. To gauge how conservative and Republican voters feel, Yahoo invited them to share whether they support tea party-affiliated groups. Here's one voter's perspective.
COMMENTARY | As a college professor in a west Georgia town, I've met many tea party members and gone to their meetings. I've even moderated candidate debates for the organization. In rural areas, the tea party seems as strong as ever. But it's not the same across the country.
If recent Gallup polls are any indication, the tea party represents a failure. Its approval ratings have fallen to 22 percent in a recent survey. That's a sharp decline from April of 2009, when a Rasmussen Poll found that 51 percent "of Americans have a favorable view of the 'tea parties' held nationwide last week, including 32 percent who say their view of the events is very favorable."
It is a similar story among Republicans, according to the Washington Post. More than two-thirds saw themselves as tea party-affiliated immediately after the 2010 election. That tea party support has dwindled to 38 percent among Republicans.
Sure, the tea party was credited with winning the 2010 election. But a closer inspection revealed that many tea party candidates, or those who claimed to be affiliated with the group, blew some very winnable races, leaving the Senate in Democratic hands. Even some of the winners are unlikely to last another term. It was the same case in 2012, where conservative candidates beat moderates in red-state primaries, only to fail in November. This attempt to oust Republicans from within is only bleeding both groups.
Such tea party members should adopt Libertarian Party views, as Sen. Rand Paul has done. Tea party conservatives are learning to abandon their old pro-war, pro-social regulation positions which are ideologically inconsistent with claims of being in favor of small government. Sen. Paul, connected to the tea party, has shown his colleagues how to get things done in Washington, D.C., teaming up with Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy on drug sentences, unlike fellow tea partiers with the reputation of being the party of "no."
And I can tell you, as a college professor, that those young people who currently favor Obama would go libertarian on social issues and antiwar concerns (along with some disillusioned progressives), providing votes and a future for a new "libeTEArian" alliance. It's where the tea party should marshal its resources, rather than shutting down the government.
John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga.
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