Most significant, many Tea Party people, not to mention those who agree with them—even if they never attend rallies—are independents and Democrats. A recent Gallup poll found that 50 percent of “Tea Party identifiers” are Republicans while 43 percent are independents and 7 percent are Democrats. That’s a remarkably high number of non-Republicans.
Another telling survey was released by Rasmussen in March. It found that by an overwhelming margin, 62 percent to 12 percent, “Mainstream Americans” believe the Tea Party is “closer to their views” than Congress. By a margin of 68 percent to 16 percent, they deemed Tea Party members “better informed” than members of Congress.
Anecdotally, I find much of this confirmed. My first question to anyone who has attended a Tea Party rally is the breakdown of independents and Democrats. The reports I get are that there are many, upwards of one-third or more. I’m told this by people I trust, who are more interested in ascertaining truth than flailing about, hurling invectives at anyone who dares to disagree with Obama.
Speaking of whom, these numbers are a major threat to President Obama. Bear in mind that it was the huge swing group of independents and moderates who in November 2008 went for Obama by 52 to 44 percent (MSNBC exit poll data), and thereby elected the most left-wing presidential candidate in American history.
According to consistent polling by Zogby, independents now approve of Obama by only around 40 percent.
Thus, all of this adds up to an uncomfortable thought I pose to the Obama acolytes: If independents, moderates, and Democrats are a notable element of the Tea Party movement, or sympathize with it, do you really want to inflame them, especially as November 2010 approaches?
This is a multifaceted movement, but one thing seems certain: Those taking pleasure assailing Tea Partiers may enliven the very movement they endeavor to destroy. I’m reminded of a quote from an early Church father (Tertullian): “We multiply wherever we are mown down by you.” The “blood” of the faithful is “seed.”
Needless to say, I’m not equating the Tea Party with the early Church, even as I’ve found an undeniably strong (and hardly irrelevant) Christian element within the movement. Yet, there’s a parallel in that the persecution of the movement—by an aggressively secular, militant left, mind you—may backfire, big time.
And that’s surely not the intention of the anti-Tea Party crusaders.
Dr. Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College, executive director of The Center for Vision & Values, and author of the book, “The Communist: Frank Marshall Davis, The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor.” His other books include "The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism" and "Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century."