From Gallup comes the latest bit of news suggesting the tea party isn’t as revolutionary as its members like to think: When asked what they considered “extremely serious threats” to the country’s future wellbeing, tea partiers cited the exact same things as run-of-the-mill Republicans. Shocker, right? Both groups overwhelmingly pointed to federal debt (61 percent of tea partiers, 55 percent of GOPers), Big Government (49 percent, 43 percent), health care costs (41 percent, 37 percent), and “terrorism” (51 percent, 51 percent) as the biggest threats to American prosperity. And in the category of unimportant threats, both groups dismiss the environment/global warming and discrimination against minorities. Here’s a good breakdown from Gallup:
So what’s the takeaway here? That media coverage of the tea party is overblown? That they’re not such a novel group after all? That’s the message gleaned by the Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent:
The Tea Party movement gets a disproportionate share of media attention because of all the funny costumes, Hitler references, and fantasizing about armed revolution. But it’s hard to see what’s distinctive about the Tea Partiers’ actual political views and priorities.
Which isn’t to say the tea party should be written off as entirely a wing of the GOP. The more libertarian strains of the tea party don’t always align with the GOP party line, especially on an issue like the US’ military presence abroad. (Rand Paul, running for US Senate in Kentucky, has suggested scaling back US military bases in Europe, for instance—an idea that’s anathema to the GOP rank and file.)
But on the whole Sargent’s right. In the past year, tea party coverage has focused more on the outlandishness of the burgeoning group than the (lack of) rigor or originality of its ideas. So, are we about to see a decrease in tea party coverage? Don’t bet on it.