In the midst of the latest debt ceiling controversy and Ted Cruz’s faux filibuster kabuki theater act, the Tea Party’s support has dwindled to near record low levels according to the latest Gallup public opinion poll on the Tea Party movement. Just 22 percent of Americans consider themselves supporters of the Tea Party, a number that is just one percentage point higher than their lowest approval mark of 21 percent in late 2011. The Tea Party brand is apparently even losing its appeal to Republicans. In November of 2010, when the Tea Party was at the peak of its political ascendancy and Republicans regained control of the House scoring a wave of victories across the country, nearly two thirds of Republicans expressed support for the Tea Party movement. By comparison, today just 38 percent of Republicans are supportive of the Tea Party, marking a tremendous drop in affinity for the movement within the rank and file of the GOP. Although Tea Party activists like to cast themselves as politically independent, just one in four independents consider themselves supporters of the Tea Party. Democrats, as one might expect, are even less likely to consider themselves Tea Party supporters, with only six percent saying they support the movement.
Although Ted Cruz may fancy himself the standard bearer of the Tea Party movement, or as this era’s emerging Ronald Reagan, he is missing one key element in becoming a charismatic movement leader. The movement he leads essentially has no followers. Americans by nature may be distrustful of government at some level, but they are a pragmatic people, and the Tea Party’s nihilistic temper tantrums simply do not endear them to the bulk of the American population. As demagogues and ideologues like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul jockey to position themselves to the right of one another in order to curry favor with Tea Party activists, they are pushing themselves well outside the mainstream of American politics and they will alienate most voters, including many Republicans, in the process.
The Tea Party movement peaked in popularity in November of 2010, although even then it only enjoyed support from about one third of the American public. That support has now tanked and sits at just 22 percent. Ted Cruz’s Senate floor talkathon may have lasted over 21 hours, but his fifteen minutes of fame are about to expire. The Tea Party is a movement whose base of support is not only small, but it is also shrinking. Sure, they still make a lot of noise and in some parts of the country they still have enough support to flex some political muscle, but most Americans have no interest in traveling down the Tea Party’s road to ruin. The American people have had enough of the Tea Party. If the Tea Party leaders do not get the message yet, the American public may have to send them a reminder in November 2014–“Tea Party, really we aren’t that into you.”
Keith Brekhus is a progressive American who currently resides in Red Lodge, Montana. He is co-host for the Liberal Fix radio show. He holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri. In 2002, he ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate in the state of Missouri. In 2014, he worked as a field organizer for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s successful re-election bid in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He can be followed on Twitter @keithbrekhus or on Facebook.