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CSU professor offers insight on Tea Party

December 6th 2012

By Matthew Stafford

In 2009, the Tea Party became a major force in American politics. The grassroots Republican/Libertarianmovement changed conservatism and the Republican Party.

The Tea Party helped give a face to conservatives who were dissatisfied with the left-leaning Obama Administration and Republicans who they felt were too open to compromise with Democrats, especially when it came to taxes.

It seemed to be on top of the world but in 2012, they crashed and burned, but why.Cleveland State Political Science Professor Joel Lieske has some insight as to the problems the Tea Party and the Republicans.

“The problem Republicans and Tea Party are having now is a demographic problem,” he said. Recent polls back this up.

A Gallup poll conducted during the election found that the Tea Party was composed of 70 percent white people, most of them over 50. Democrats, by contrast are more cosmopolitan, according to Lieske. Even so, this doesn’t explain their success in 2010.

“The thing with 2010 was that turnout was much lower,” Lieske said. “In 2010, it was somewhere around 30 percent. In 2012, it was much higher.”

Lieske also said that the rape comments made by Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock turned off single women. Many felt that the Republicans would take away their reproductive rights.

These fears were compounded by various bills like Ohio’s “heartbeat bill,” which would restrict abortion if a fetus had a heartbeat. It was widely considered the most restrictive abortion bill in the nation.
Women weren’t the only groups the Tea Party alienated. Photos of Tea Party rallies that had people holding signs of President Obama dressed as a witch doctor and other signs that could reasonably interpreted as racist, alienated minorities further. Tea Party supported Representatives, like Michelle Bachmann, had a nasty habit of alienating moderates like CSU’s David Goerz.

“They lead with the crazy,” Goerz said of the Tea Party. “Every political faction has crazy people in it, but the Tea Party sees their crazy people as the voice of reason and trips all over themselves to find a bigger spotlight to shine on them.”

The Tea Party, Tea standing for Taxed Enough Already, formed in the wake of John McCain’s defeat by President Obama in 2008. As the Affordable Care Act legislation advanced through Congress, many conservatives started getting together to oppose what they perceived as an unconstitutional takeover of healthcare,and the bailouts of the banking and auto industries, which they believed was a waste of taxpayer money. The stimulus packages only amplified conservative anger.

Eventually, the large national debt, the prospect of more taxes and regulations compelled them to form the Tea Party. They started holding large scale rallies, getting all over the news and tapping into the rage of many every day citizens. This was only the beginning.

In the run-up to the 2010 elections, Tea Party candidates beat many moderate Republicans who they described as Republicans In Name Only or RINOs. In the election itself, the Tea Party routed Democrats on all levels of government and gave the Democrats what President Obama famously termed as a “shellacking.”

However, 2012 was a different story. The Democrats tightened their control over the Senate and retained the Presidency and left many Republicans questioning how the Tea Party went cold.
According to exit polls at the time, voters in the 2010 elections were mostly those who tended to vote regularly, like the elderly who make up a large portion of the Tea Party.

This gave the Republicans an advantage. However, in 2012, the turnout among women and minorities was higher and the GOP and Tea Party had done very little to appeal to them.
In fact, they were saying and doing things that ticked them off at every turn causing them to lose Senate seats that many political analysts say that would have stayed or turned Republican had the Tea Party not deposed a moderate.

This had shown itself to be an issue in 2010 when the Tea Party failed to unseat Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid, two seats that were thought to be in play before the Tea Party deposed the more moderate candidates in the primaries.

The 2010 elections also demonstrated the hazard in running untested outsider candidates, namely the large probability of them saying things vast swaths of the electorate found offensive. This cost the GOP in 2012. Take for example, the aforementioned rape comments by Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock.
They ended up costing them both their elections, which they leading before they said them, according to Gallup.

According to Lieske, the Tea Party might be able to win lower turnout midterm elections, but unless something changes within the Tea Party and GOP, they’ll have a hard time in the long term.