The Tea Party is losing the image war

The Tea Party has allowed their opposition to define them. It is time to take control of the message. Photo: Associated Press

WASHINGTON, December 31, 2013 — The Affordable Care Act is failing, the government is too big, and taxes are too high. This is the message that is being heard loud and clear coming from the voices of the American people in the form of polls, op-eds, protests, and rallies all across the country.

There is an unprecedented wave of grassroots political groups forming up locally to make an impact on a national level, and the people of the United States are waking up to the massive, sprawling encroachment of a leviathan government.


SEE RELATED: The Tea Party and 2014: Repeal Obamacare, end fraud, cut energy costs


The Tea Party, or Taxed Enough Already Party, believes in all of the above, and recognizes the dangers that big government poses to the civil liberties of everyday Americans. However they have been unable, thus far, to capitalize on this new wave of anti-big government sentiment.

Why? They are losing the image war.

The Tea Party enjoys the scorn of many Americans, most of whom blame them for the government shutdown. Yet despite the fact that the government shutdown resulted from the Democrats refusing to negotiate over Obamacare ― a law that now enjoys extremely low approval ― the Tea Party takes the blame for it. Because, you guessed it, they are losing the image war.

The Tea Party has the ideas, they know how to rebuild America, but most Americans need things drawn out for them in pretty pictures before they’re distracted by American Idol. More people were concerned about Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson last month than have been bothered that the President of the United States lied to the American people over a dozen times about healthcare, and the president still tops the polls as the most admired man of 2013.


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The Tea Party needs to be more aggressive towards getting their message out there, because while many Americans see what is going on in the country, many more will just complain about it and then change the channel. Let’s take a look at the Tea Party platform: Less government influence on the lives of everyday Americans; less taxes; balanced budget; less foreign borrowing; protection of civil liberties; and adherence to the Constitution. That last item would address the rest of the list, if it were taken seriously.

They might also repeal the Affordable Care Act. Let’s go to Gallup to see what the people want. According to one poll, the ACA has a disapproval rating of 51 percent. America doesn’t seem to enjoy the ACA much, and neither does the Tea Party. In an April 2013 poll, just 53 percent of Americans perceived their tax rate to be fair; while not a damnation of the system, it was their lowest result for that poll yet which may symbolize a trend towards a switching majority on that issue.

Many Americans don’t believe their taxes are fair, neither does the Tea Party. In November, Gallup released a poll which showed that an estimated 56 percent of Americans did not think that Healthcare was the responsibility of the government. In a December 18 poll, a staggering 72 percent said that big government was the biggest threat Americans faced moving forward. Who is trying to fight against big government? The Tea Party.

Despite the fact that the Tea Party represents the dissatisfaction and the change that the American people want to see in Washington according to these polls, the Tea Party enjoys a scant 31 percent favorability among Americans. This is the prevailing wind in America for several reasons.


SEE RELATED: America, the Tea Party, and Obamacare


The Tea Party has allowed their opposition to define them. The Progressive left controls most of the media, and they can paint the Tea Party as they please. The government shutdown was a giant dance, and it takes to two tango. While the Tea Party was responsible for saying “we either defund Obamacare or we start up the government,” it was the Democrats who said “shut down the government.”

The Left could shut it down because they knew they would be able to lay the blame on the Tea Party and get away with it. There are no pesky, meddling kids and a giant talking dog to save them in this one. This animosity towards the Tea Party is ridiculous of course, because they are being shot at for trying to defund a law that is now widely unpopular. The problem is they have done little to counteract that image, or any image of them to begin with. They are seen as racist, bigoted, hate mongering “terrorists” because the media has painted them that way. Someone even called them the Taliban of Washington and the Tea Party did not even mount a reasonable response to this.

Their belief in their convictions, and their reliance upon their principles to see them through to victory are not enough. They will not win on ideas alone. It is all about image, and while one can appreciate the Tea Party not wanting to compromise their ideals for the sake of victory, there is a difference between letting your opponent slander you and changing who you are.

The Tea Party needs to defend their honor in front of the American people. They have been on the wrong side of a one sided battlefront when it comes to the court of public opinion. Despite the fact that their agenda lines up almost perfectly with a slim majority of Americans, they are still seen in an unfavorable light. They need to return fire, and they need to do it in a big way.

The Tea Parties, which propose to represent the people, lack a direct understanding of how to talk to Americans. They think that grand gestures and bold stands will push the voters towards them. That may persuade many, but not enough to get the numbers they need. How to talk to the American people? Take out air time during a football game or during afternoon television, and carefully explain what is going on.

Ted Cruz sitting at his desk, or Rand Paul in front a blue screen with a Power Point laying out exactly what they are trying to do, and exactly what is going on in Washington, will speak to an entirely new level of voter who would otherwise get their political information from the local 6 o’clock news.

Tea partyers do not know the game in Washington, and as a result are allowing their own party ― the GOP ― to demonize them. The Tea Party now represents the only truly conservative faction in the government.

But this is a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing not to know the game, because they have the best chance at connecting with normal American voters, while distancing themselves from the business as usual GOP who many blame for a lack of Conservative principles within the party.

It is a curse because without knowing the game, they are making mistakes and allowing their opponents to capitalize on those mistakes. 2014 will be a year that the Tea Party has to sell their image, define themselves, and connect with the American voter. If they lose their chance in 2014, it will be a long two years until they get another chance.


This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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Conor Higgins

Conor Higgins has a B.A. from Catholic University in DC in American History, with a concentration on guerrilla warfare on American soil. He has an M.A. in US History from George Mason University in Fairfax, VA, with a concentration on Cold War insurgency. He believes that all news and all information should be taken with a grain of salt, and implores people everywhere to seek news stories everywhere. 

Higgins is also a fervent believer in the traditional role of media, in terms of acting as a balanced check on government policies and individuals regardless of party affiliation. But in the end, he believes that no matter how heated an issue is, there is nothing that can't be discussed over a smoke and some whiskey. 

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