The NYT has released a fascinating poll that provides some important insight into what exactly is driving the full-fledged political movement that is the Tea Party. Frankly, the answers are disconcerting. If you pay a visit to the official Tea Party Patriots website and take a gander at the organization’s “mission,” you’d see three enshrined principles that the movement purportedly subscribes to: fiscal responsibility, constitutionally limited government, and free markets. All sound principles worth fighting for, no doubt, especially at a time when both parties have seemingly relegated the balanced budget to the political abyss . But the problem, unfortunately, is that it these principles simply don’t appear to be the driving force behind the Tea Party’s steady and sure rise to political prominence. For example, despite the fact that 92% of Tea Party respondents would rather have a smaller government with fewer services, 62% still believe that that Social Security and Medicare are the worth the cost. The ideological conundrums don’t end there, however. 40% of Tea Party respondents think that Sarah Palin, an ardent supporter of the very expensive war on terror, would make a good President (compared to 26% among all respondents). Interestingly enough, this peculiar brand of fiscal conservatism is one that President Obama advocated in his supposed “spending freeze” plan.
And this brings us to what the poll numbers point to as the greatest source of unity among Tea Party members: A general distrust of the President. Among Tea Party respondents, the President enjoys a 88% job disapproval rating. Further, 84% of respondents simply have an unfavorable opinion of him. That their overwhelmingly negative opinion of the President is largely divorced from his actual policies is disturbing, but it also brings to light one of the reasons for the GOP’s refusal to cooperate with the President and the Dems on any issue. In a three-way generic ballot poll commissioned by Rasmussen, the tea party candidate picked up 23% of the vote, while the GOP candidate only garnered 18%. And because Tea Party members almost exclusively vote Republican, it would only make sense for a GOP candidate with an eye on the upcoming midterm elections to run on the defacto tea party ticket. What does this entail? Just look to the healthcare debate: the recipe for success is saying “no” to the President, regardless of the policy implications. It’s worth noting that the Rasmussen poll asked respondents to assume that the Tea Party candidate would be running on a third-party ticket, a wholly unrealistic prospect, but the implications for both parties remain the same. As long as the GOP continues to falter and the Tea Party continues to gain momentum, bipartisanship will grow increasingly elusive and GOP rhetoric will further reflect the sentiments of the Tea Party, an organization with substantial electoral support that seems to have abandoned ideological consistency in favor of misplaced distrust.