A Washington Post/ABC News poll shows a major shift in sentiment toward (against?) the tea party movement. I would not challenge the accuracy of the results which show the tea party’s popularity waning among Southerners and people 18 to 29. In fact, the poll shows that a full 50 percent of Americans now have a negative view of the tea party.
Sure, there may have been some chicanery with the questions to skew the results. But only a true shift in sentiment would result in change this big. After a year of wall-to-wall coverage of “tea party,” I’d expect a downshift.
I think there are several issues here:
1. Rand Paul’s performance since the primary has been a net negative. I pointed out on Kudlow the day after Kentucky primary that his candidacy is not a referendum on the tea party movement. Nothing is. But he and some tea partyers insisted on linking the two, and his handling of controversy has been less than spectacular.
2. In Nevada, Michigan, and elsewhere, leftists have created fake "tea party" parties that have damaged the brand by running Democrats pretending to be tea partyers. The idea is to split the center-right vote to allow the like of Harry Reid back into Congress.
3. In-fighting among tea partyers has left a foul taste in the mouths of many. This development shouldn’t be a surprise. The tea party movement has no structure or hierarchy to keep order, and it’s filled with people who are new to this arena. We make mistakes, people. Get over it.
4. Some disenchanted Republicans who were early tea partyers have returned to the GOP. That doesn’t mean they won’t continue to fight the good fight. It means they’ll do so under a banner they’re more familiar with.
5. Zealots and purists have splintered off and driven away more pragmatic reformers. We’ve seen this in numerous places across the country. When the zealots lose, they tend to take their balls and go home. They also tend to turn off the people who just want their country back.
6. After a year of hearing “tea party, tea party, tea party,” many people are probably just tired of hearing about it. I am tired of hearing about it. I want to rack up some damn wins and get about fixing the country, and really don’t care what was call the thing that does it.
What makes Ensuring Liberty (and similar orgs) so interesting to me is that they allow the tea party passion to yield actual results. The tea party movement is indispensable for its passion and energy and new blood, but 10,000 angry people don't win elections: 10,000 voters do.
So what do you do? How do you take this passion, this glorious coming together that we’ve experienced since February 27, 2009, and turn it into a wild victory celebration on November 2? Let’s start with this list:
- Invest in an organization that is engineered to win important races AND to hold the new Congress accountable. I helped launch Ensuring Liberty to do just that, and we need your support to get there. Please join today.
- Take personal responsibility to register everyone in your house to vote. In Missouri, it’s easy. Just fill out this form and send it to your election board—directions on the back.
- Join the St. Louis Tea Party’s Block Captain/Liberty Evangelism project. Give people the power of personal freedom by handing them a Constitution with your email address on it, saying, “Please take this as gift. Please read it and decide for yourself whether Washington is living up to the promises in those documents.”
- Use the buddy system to make sure everyone you recruit votes in the primary (on August 3 in Missouri) and on November 2. That means you will commit to ensuring one other person gets to the polls, and someone commits to ensuring you get to the polls. Take ownership of this job. Let nothing stop you.
- Put in for vacation on November 1, 2, and 3. Do it right now. You will be needed to get out the vote. Let nothing stop you. (You will still be partying on Wednesday at 10:00 a.m., so you might as well not even think about working that day.)
- Vote early and get your friends and neighbors who agree with you to vote early.
- Every night before you go to bed, write a positive journal entry describing the feeling, the sounds, the news on November 2 and 3. Describe Ed Martin’s victory speech or Robin Carnahan’s concession. What will Frank Rich Say? Paul Krugman? Maureen Dowd? Keith Olbermann? Chris Matthews? Would could be more fun that Matthews describing the “Tea bagger temper tantrum” that overturned Congress? Write Rush Limbaugh’s opening monologue for November 3. Who will get Dana Loesch’s cool points?
The name of the movement doesn’t matter. It never did. Names are symbols. The name came from the name of an event—a “tea party” held to demonstrate that we’d had enough. That phase is over. Everyone knows we’ve had enough. Now it’s time to act.