I am sure that no one knows for sure how many members are part of the Tea Party movement. I don’t mean those who in polls say they are for freedom and oppose taxes and debt; that’s about every American. I mean there is no real data on who are real, meeting-going, dues-paying tea baggers.
But one thing I do know; in the 2008 national election 122,000,000 Americans voted. So for the Tea Party extremists, the conservative media and the Republican Party to claim that this is a major political movement that cannot be ignored causes me to scratch my head in disbelief.
The only real data that exists about the Tea Party activists are those crowd estimates whenever there is a march on Washington or a Sarah Palin rally. Most of the time the crowds are in the 5,000-10,000 range with an occasional 100,000 mega- gatherirng. Now to get thousands of people to turn out for a political rally is significant in itself these days, but let’s keep this all in perspective. The Tea Party movement is still a fringe enterprise with a modest base of support.
I lived through the anti-Vietnam war movement, the civil rights movement and the feminist movement, and I assure you the Tea Party movement is small scale grumbling. Of course, because the tea baggers yell louder than most, have no guilt about carrying racist signs and wear all those silly hats, the media sees these angry people as worthy of five minutes on the news.
History will show that these fringe extremists come along when change mixes with fear. This time the change is the Great Recession and President Obama’s policies to deal with the economic meltdown. The fear comes from the effective media blitzes of the right-wing that have scared the living daylights out of vulnerable people. It is hard to believe that the government is going to convene death panels, take children away from their parents and become a Bolshevik state, but that’s what the tea baggers have bought into.
The antidote to the Tea Party movement is easy – a stronger economy, a President willing to fight openly against the conservatives, and the implementation of the health care reform law that helps the middle class. These fringe extremists are not going to go away by the November election, and in some states they will make some difference. But because this is not a real national movement with large popular support, it is important to remember that number – 122,000,00 voters. The Tea Party movement is no match for the real American electorate.