The media is trying to paint the Tea Party as a branch of the Republican Party. Rather than being a grassroots movement, they view it as the mobilization of the loudest conservatives who would never vote for a Democrat anyway. They don’t even see it as a “movement,” something spurred by a specific issue, but an expression of an already-known political ideology.
This was at the heart of Jon Stewart’s interview last night with John M. O’Hara, author of “A New American Tea Party.” It was a very calm interview (a fresh break from the debate with Marc Thiessen) and can be watched below:
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c|
|John O’Hara Pt. 1|
This simple interview actually can provide the Tea Partiers with some insight on how to have the best success possible. Stewart has actually defended the media’s characterization of the Tea Party. He’s not someone who will reflexively see every Obama critic as being a narrow-minded partisan. Yet, he sees the Tea Party as a component of the Republican Party, and I can see where he gets that from. The first rallies got their momentum from Fox News. I can’t think of any speaker at these rallies who isn’t a Republican or a bleeding-heart conservative. To an outsider, it totally comes off like another GOP rally.
Both sides have some truth. This poll shows how this can change. It shows that 55% of Tea Partiers are Republicans, and 14% are Democrats. It is likely that most of the Independents are conservatives that don’t feel comfortable aligning with the GOP officially but still vote for them. This can be assumed from the fact that 78% describe themselves as politically conservative and the same percentage says they will vote Republican in the midterm elections.
So, a big majority are Republican voters and conservatives. However, what gives the Tea Party its strength is its message on fiscal conservatism. The main criticism of big government right now is the spending it requires. Stewart seemed impressed when he thought, for a moment, that O’Hara’s research showed that the Tea Partiers are not as united on social issues. The Tea Party can gain the respect of liberals willing to listen like Stewart, and Independents who don’t fit the conservative Republican profile but are scared by the deficit. They would be wise to focus on this unifying issue, rather than to take on a series of conservative causes.