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Saturday, September 3, 2011

Psst: The Tea Party Is Mainstream Despite Everything You Hear

Democrat politicians paint the Tea Party as an extreme fringe of American politics. Vice President Joe Biden famously described Tea Party Republicans as “terrorists.” According to Democrat Sen. Jay Rockefeller, the Tea Party are “extremists” who have “hijacked” the Republican Party.  Other Democrats are less restrained, telling us: The Tea Party is like the Nazis or KKK, is a serious threat to our national security, and Tea Party members should “go straight to hell.”  Some even whisper the Tea Party “wants to lynch blacks.”
Establishment figures condescendingly describe the Tea Party as “an amorphous collection of individuals” which includes “affluent suburban libertarians, rural fundamentalists, ambitious pundits, unreconstructed racists, and fiscally conservative housewives.” They shudder to consider: What would happen to our foreign policy if those hicks got in charge!
The Democrats’ media allies either ignore huge Tea Party rallies or feature clown-like demonstrators dressed as Uncle Sam or revolutionary figures. They single out Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann as representatives of the sinister free-market ideology of the Christian right.
National Public Radio and other “balanced” news organizations decry the plague on both parties. The beleaguered president must contend with his far-left, and noble moderate Republicans must bear their Tea Party cross. They ask plaintively: With extremists on both sides, how we can have civilized discourse and compromise?
Democratic politicians and their media allies can scarcely restrain their glee when national polls find the Tea Party’s popularity slipping. Given the onslaught from all sides, I personally find it remarkable that the Tea Party commands the large support it does.
The dominant narrative of the Tea Party as an extremist fringe group isolated from the American mainstream is distant from the truth. American public opinion polls, in fact, show that those who have “read, heard or seen anything about the Tea Party” are more supportive and majorities credit the Tea Party with energizing the political process and making government more responsive to the people.
If the Tea Party is a kook fringe, then its agenda should be far out of line with American public opinion. I surveyed a large number of Tea Party sites to distill what I consider to be its “core” platform. I then studied public opinion polls to determine whether the American people agree with the Tea Party’s core principles.

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