A recent poll conducted by USA Today/Gallup indicates the tea party movement could be headed for a bit of trouble in the coming months. The poll revealed that there is a 14-point gap between those who perceive the tea party unfavorably (47 percent) and those who see it favorably (33 percent). It is the widest margin that has been exhibited by far concerning the relatively new political movement and it has occurred since January. Could the right-wing movement have pushed too hard with its message of reform, especially concerning Medicare, Social Security, unemployment benefits and collective bargaining? Or might it be that Americans do not particularly like living in the shadow of constant threat?
To explain: Since the inception of the tea party movement in 2009, when it began to coalesce from a disparate group of libertarian idealists into a popular movement against fiscal irresponsibility and government overreach, the tea party has been a movement that threatens. They threatened Democrats across the board, blaming Democrats and liberals for the national debt, uncontrolled spending, health care reform and a vast number of other issues to which many of the conservative movement opposed. They threatened Republicans, untried politicians with whom they disagreed and veteran incumbents with whom they disagreed. In short, the tea party threatened the political status quo of the predominantly two-party American political system.
Not only did they threaten, but they won. In the 2010 midterm elections, they did so in a big way, replacing Democrats and Republicans alike, and propelled their candidates (and candidates that they supported) into control of the House of Representatives, not to mention governorships, and many state legislative positions throughout the country.
Once ensconced in positions of political power, they began to threaten the established order of things, threatening future elections. They were especially threatening to incumbent Republicans and Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio.
And then they began to threaten established policies, revered institutions that were put in place several generations ago as safety nets for workers, the poor, and the aged: Unemployment benefits, Social Security and Medicare. They ran on platforms that professed their stances and still won, mostly due to the fact that most agree with fiscal responsibility and limiting government spending.
However, winning local elections sometimes does not equate to the bigger picture of national politics. A poll conducted by the Wall Street Journal indicated 62 percent of Americans opposed eliminating collective bargaining (34 percent found it acceptable), 54 percent opposed cuts to Medicare (18 percent favored the move) to balance the budget, and 48 percent opposed cuts to Social Security (22 percent favored) in order to balance the budget.
Threats to political positions. Threats to American institutions. The tea party has simply become a movement of threats.
The recent poll by USA Today/Gallup, corroborating an earlier poll from CNN/ORC, may reflect something not just American but simply human: people do not respond well to be threatened.