A Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey released on May 13th finds that 32 percent of national Republican voters and 50 percent of Republicans who identify with the Tea Party believe that “the government is trying to take over Texas”. The national survey of 685 likely Republican primary voters suggests that the Jade Helm 15 conspiracy theory, which claims the U.S. military is conducting military exercises as a precursor to invading Texas, is being taken seriously by a significant portion of the GOP electorate.
The belief that the government might invade Texas is especially strong with Republican voters who back a Texas Republican for president. 76 percent of Republicans who support former Texas Governor Rick Perry for president buy into the conspiracy theory. 56 percent of Texas Senator Ted Cruz’s supporters also believe the government is planning to take over the Lone Star State. By contrast, less than 1 in 5 Jeb Bush supporters thinks the Jade Helm 15 training exercises are a prelude to invasion.
To be fair, 40 percent of Republican voters do not think the government is planning a takeover of Texas and 28 percent are “not sure”, despite the fact that many GOP politicians, including Senator Ted Cruz, have entertained the conspiracy theory, giving it a veneer of legitimacy.
Cruz’s stance has made him popular with Tea Party Republicans. 79 percent view him favorably compared to just 13 percent of Tea Party Republicans who hold an unfavorable opinion of him. However, with Republicans who don’t identify as members of the Tea Party, Cruz has just a 38-34 favorable rating.
The Jade Helm conspiracy theory exposes the conflict within the Republican base between the establishment wing and the Tea Party insurgency still brewing within the party. While most GOP voters distrust President Obama, there is a difference between Republicans who have concerns about his leadership, and those who think he is literally plotting to impose a martial law dictatorship in the state of Texas.
Republicans vying for the party’s presidential nomination will have to decide which wing of the party they plan to represent. Common sense suggests any candidate who wants to win a general election should steer clear of the right-wing conspiracy wing of the party. However, the strength of the conspiracy wing within the GOP primary voting base suggests that a common sense candidate may not make it to the general election.
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.