The Toxicity of the Tea Party Label

It’s clear the Tea Party is a damaged brand.  The Tea Party movement pushed candidates in GOP primaries who, to the horror of the Republican establishment, suffered a humiliating string of losses.

Not only that, the number of people identifying themselves as Tea Party has dropped to around 8% of the population.

It’s gotten so bad that Karl Rove has set up a fund to fight the Tea Party in primary races, the conservative website Redstate has proposed dropping the Tea Party name, and local tea party leaders  are resigning from Tea Party groups to join organizations with other brands.

The Redstate article, entitled  Tea Party 2.0: Focus on the 4 R’s & Fight Back, actually makes some good observations, although the solutions are somewhat hilarious. 

For instance, the article points out:

To make matters worse, the Tea Party movement has an attrition problem called age.

All-too-often, Tea Party meeting attendees are grandparents fighting to save America’s future for their grandchildren. Yet, the grandchildren are nowhere to be found. Why?

The solution proposed by the article?

If you’re fighting for your kids’ future, get your kids involved—and have them bring some friends.  

This has hilarious possibilities for comic awkwardness at family gatherings.  Imagine being a twenty-something, and your grandparents take you aside and ask “We’d like for you to come to our meeting of angry septuagenarians ranting about Obamacare and Agenda 21 over Chik-Fil-A sandwiches.”

The Tea Party is, after all, in aggregate, the crazy old racist grandparent or aunt posting chain emails about conspiracy theories on facebook.  The twenty year old is the young embarrassed relative who doesn’t want to unfriend the crazy older relative, but wishes they’d find another hobby.

The Tea Party was brought on by a very specific point in U.S. history, and with the passing of that point, there is no turning back the clock.

It was the point at which the first African-American president was elected ,but the changing demographics hadn’t yet reached the point where the new national progressive coalition could withstand a fierce backlash in an offyear election season.  It was the last gasp of an older generation of conservatives.  The attrition by age isn’t a symptom.  It’s the root of the disease.  There is a good reason why statistically few young people were involved in the Tea Party, and why inviting them won’t work.  The country is changing, and the Tea Party movement represents the past.

I suspect that until the gerrymandering successfully carried out by the GOP erodes by the relentless force of changing demographics, outbursts and backlashes by the Tea Party and it’s spin-offs will continue to have an effect for a few years.  But overall, it’s a movement in a death spiral.