Let's get this straight once and for all: The vast — and I mean vast — majority of those who identify themselves as Republican voters, or as independents who likely will vote in Republican primaries in 2012, has no problems with the tenets and beliefs of the tea party movement.
It's a laugh-out-loud moment when national political pundits continue to have weighty discussions about a "battle between the GOP establishment and the tea party." Make no mistake: Such discussion is designed to create that very division. Because it doesn't exist right now.
Let's break down the essential elements of the tea party's policy positions and see what if anything separates those positions from those of the large majority of potential GOP voters next year.
Oh, my gosh! Tea partyers want to see a reduction in the size of government. Imagine a Republican with half a brain who hasn't come to the conclusion that a growing federal government is their enemy. Good luck finding them, because polling data says they are rare. Republicans and tea partyers agree.
It doesn't mean that Republican officeholders have always lived up to that standard. Many have voted and otherwise supported expanded government and excessive spending, including during the George W. Bush administration.
Of course, it's important to remember that much of that overspending has been a reaction to 9/11 and the military response that it triggered. By the same token, the federal Department of Education didn't disappear, as once promised. In short, everyone gets the point that being a Republican in 2012 is a far more fiscally conservative proposition than it was just a few years ago.
What about taxes? I can't find in the polling data many Republicans who favor eliminating the Bush tax cuts, or many who buy into the concept that a family earning $250,000 a year is "super wealthy," and should therefore be punished with higher taxes.
You more or less can't find a Republican candidate for any office who wants to tax much of anything at all. Many of them are proposing tax cuts, in fact.
How about immigration? In general, those who identify themselves as tea partyers want to see order restored to the immigration process. They oppose using federal or sometimes state government money to support those who are here illegally. They point to border nations Canada and even Mexico, both of which are stricter about non-citizen residents in their countries than America is.
Let's look at healthcare. It's almost astounding the number of people who identify themselves as Republicans who want a complete repeal of Obamacare.
The only component of Obamacare that polls well with some in the GOP is the requirement that insurance companies cannot box people out of the health care system because of pre-existing conditions. That's hardly reason for Republicans to fight tea partyers.
What's really going on is the same thing that we witnessed in 1980. Ronald Reagan was portrayed as an impetuous and unstable arch-conservative who would push the nuclear button in a New York minute. Yet his economic policies now are the standard for all Republicans, even though when he first revealed them, they were considered untested or even "voodoo economics." That coined phrase came from none other than the man who would become Reagan's vice president, George H.W. Bush.
And that's my point. The differences between the elder Bush and Reagan in 1980 were far more pronounced than any of the differences that exist among any of the major GOP candidates for president today.
For whatever reason — be it ignorance or something more nefarious — much of the national media wants to portray a divided GOP. They are hopeful that the Republican who emerges as the party's presidential nominee will be identifiable with what these pundits consider to be a major rupture within the GOP. They're nuts.
I must have given a hundred interviews to reporters on this issue over the last year. Inevitably they will then quote different parts of what I said. But not one has written the first thing I always tell them: The tea party is a state of mind.
Matt Towery is author of the book, "Paranoid Nation: The Real Story of the 2008 Fight for the Presidency." He heads the polling and political information firm InsiderAdvantage. Follow him on Twitter @matttowery.
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