The Mad Hatters of the Tea Party burst onto the American political scene shortly after the election of Barack Obama in 2008, and they became an instant hit with conservatives. Thanks to Tea Party inspired hatred of the president, as well the malaise of the Democratic electorate, Republicans were able to regain control of the House of Representatives in 2010.
Using the power gained in that election, the Tea Party took de facto control of the GOP, forcing Republican lawmakers to get their stamp of approval on any legislation. The result is a Republican Party that has become more and more dysfunctional each time another Tea Party lawmaker joined the ranks of elected members.
However, while the Tea Party continues to largely control the day-to-day affairs of the GOP, American voters have become increasingly tired of their “our way or the highway” act.
A new Gallup poll reveals that support for this right-wing insurgency that has gummed up the works of American government for the past six years is at an all time low.
When the Tea Party hit Gallup’s radar in early 2010, Americans’ support for the group was at 28 percent, compared to 26 percent who were opposed, and 38 percent who had no opinion. By November 2010 the Tea Party was riding high, ousting the Democratic majority from the House, and enjoying the support of almost one-third of the country.
Now it’s 2015. After years of watching Tea Party politicians act like petulant children, refusing to compromise, and thereby gumming up the works in a system that was built on compromise, Tea Party support among voters is at an all time low. In Gallup’s most recent survey, only 17 percent of Americans say they are Tea Party supporters.
As telling as that chart is, the one below tells an even more interesting story. It’s not surprising that liberals and Democrats have never been fans of the Tea Party, but look at what has happened to their support among Republicans.
Even among self-identified “conservative Republicans,” Tea Party support has dropped 21 points since 2010. Gallup also says that two groups that tended to be more in support than opposed to the Tea Party in 2010 — those over 65, and those who are married — have switched sides, and now majorities of those groups oppose the Tea Party.
Gallup cautions that we should not celebrate the demise of the Tea Party just yet. They observe that support for the movement was waning in 2011, but picked up again as the 2012 election approached. They also mention that presidential candidates who are Tea Party creations, such as Ted Cruz, may spark renewed interest in and support for the group.
Despite evidence that the Tea Party is finally going the way of Ross Perot’s “Reform Party” from the 1990s, Republicans continue to let members of the Tea Party wing call the shots in Washington. The Benghazi select committee, for example, is largely a Tea Party creation. And of course there is the whole issue of who is going to be the next Speaker of the House, which is being held up at the moment by the “Freedom” and “Liberty” caucuses.
Those are nothing more than different names for the Tea Party.
Even with these encouraging poll numbers, we risk ignoring the Tea Party at our own peril. They still have a sizable group of elected lawmakers in Washington, and as we are seeing, they still wield a fair amount of power among Republicans, even if their influence with voters seems to be waning.
We’re all waiting for the day when the Tea Party will have as little control over things as the guy below. Unfortunately for America, they’re not there yet.
Featured image via Desert Rose Books