What happened to the Tea Party?

What happened to the Tea Party?
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Just a few years ago, the Tea Party was a dominant force in American politics, but you don’t hear much about it these days. It hasn’t gone away, it just morphed into something else.

Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden, Sanders lead field in Iowa poll The Memo: Cohen fans flames around Trump Memo Comey used to brief Trump on dossier released: report MORE was born out of the Tea Party. Trump’s dedicated supporters are many of the same folks who made the Tea Party the dominant force in American politics in 2010.


Like Trump, the Tea Party was never overwhelmingly popular but it did have a strongly committed base. Less than half (41 percent) of the people who voted in 2010 said they were supporters of the Tea Party. Coincidently, Trump’s job rating usually hovers at the same level. 


The issues that fired up the Tea Party are the same things that Trump pushes as president: an anti-establishment view, hostility towards immigrants, opposition to ObamaCare and hatred of federal budget deficits.

It was the Tea Party fanned the flames that led to big GOP victories in 2010. The difference in 2018 is that Democrats are engaged as much Republicans were back then.

One of the curiosities of the 2018 midterm election is national polls show Democrats motivated to vote in the same way Tea Party supporters were in 2010. A June CNN Poll indicated that Democrats are much more enthusiastic about voting this November than Republicans. 

Why are Republicans so blasé about the midterms? One reason may be that Trump hasn’t delivered on the promises he made in 2016 to the acolytes of the Tea Party even though the GOP controls the U.S. House and Senate.

Trump hasn’t got the money he needs to build his wall. But demography is destiny and a wall on the Mexican border won’t stop the face of America from changing because of birth rates that are much higher than for Hispanic and Asian Americans than they are for Anglos.

ObamaCare is still the law of the land, even in its weakened condition. And its pale substitute, TrumpCare died a miserable death in a GOP controlled Republican U.S. Senate

Because of tax cuts for the GOP’s corporate masters, the federal debt has swelled to astronomic proportions. The tax cut was ambrosia to big business and the 1 percent but it has done next to nothing for downtrodden white voters who punched Trump’s ticket to the White House.

The big issues on the radar screen haven't changed much since 2010 and 2016. Distrust of Washington, immigration, health care and the economy are still on the front burner. All these issues favored the GOP and Trump; now the same problems will come back to haunt the president and congressional Republicans. Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaObama urges people to sign up for health insurance after ruling striking down law The 2020 Democratic nomination will run through the heart of black America Gillibrand says she's worried about top options in Dem 2020 poll being white men MORE and Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonMemo Comey used to brief Trump on dossier released: report Trump will likely win reelection in 2020 Lanny Davis says Nixon had more respect for the Constitution than Trump MORE played the role of swamp creature in 2010 and in 2016. Trump has become is the creature from the black lagoon because he made the swamp more fetid than it already was. Before, voters wanted to get rid of ObamaCare; now voters are angry that the GOP weakened the Affordable Care Act without replacing it.

The move of populists and progressives into the Democratic Party made a regionally based states’ rights party into a dominant party for a generation. But transition works both ways. The question is whether the Republican Party will develop or devolve from the Tea Party.

In 1964, extremist conservative groups took over the Republican Party and the coup led to massive GOP losses in 1964. That turned into a disaster for the GOP because the Democratic landslide quickly produced Medicare, the Voting Rights Act and Head Start. These programs improved the lives of millions of Americans but they continue to embitter conservatives more than 50 years later.

Brad Bannon is a Democratic pollster and CEO of Bannon Communications Research. (There is no relation to former Trump adviser Stephen Bannon). He is also a senior adviser to, and editor of, the blog at MyTiller.com, a social media network for politics. Contact him at brad@bannoncr.com