June 20, 2014 at 1:00 am

COLUMN

Tea party's death was greatly exaggerated

The tea party claimed its highest-profile win in defeating House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Virginia, in this month's primary election. (Harry Hamburg / AP)

Just when Tea Party obituaries were being sounded around the country, Washington fixture of 42 years, Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran, loses a close primary vote to upstart Tea Party candidate Chris McDaniel, forcing a runoff.

One week later, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, in the blockbuster of this year’s political season, is booted out of office in the Virginia Republican primary by an economics professor from Randolph-Macon College, total undergraduate enrollment — 1,312 students.

Turns out that reports of the death of the Tea Party are greatly exaggerated.

According to the New York Times editorial page, writing about Cantor’s defeat, the Tea Party is “producing candidates who are light-years from the mainstream.”

Many continue to harbor and sell the illusion, nurtured by media sources like the New York Times, and reaching sometimes to even the Wall Street Journal, that somehow there is a “mainstream” in American politics today and that anyone with strongly held conviction, who actually cares about that conviction, is an “extremist” or “ideologue” and not part of this “mainstream.”

But if mainstream means not clearly on one side of the political spectrum or the other, a new report from Pew Research shows that what is supposedly mainstream today is not mainstream at all. The report, “Political Polarization in the American Republic,” shows that it is now the minority of Americans who are not clearly on the left or the right.

Only 39 percent of Americans define themselves in the middle, as a mixed bag of liberal and conservative values. The majority of Americans, the other 61 percent, see themselves as on the liberal left or the conservative right. Thirty four percent say they are mostly or consistently liberal and 27 percent say they are mostly or consistently conservative.

Just 10 years ago some 49 percent — ten percentage points more — defined themselves in the mixed middle.

The New York Times would like us to believe that there is a “mainstream” in America today because what “mainstream” means is status quo — don’t rock the boat. Because of the massive growth of government over recent years, today’s status quo means acceptance of a great lurch leftward, which has already occurred.

It sounds so measured and sober to call a candidate “mainstream.”

But “mainstream” is not measured and sober.

It means shrugging your shoulders at $17 trillion in federal debt, $4 trillion in federal spending, and a tax code of over 73,000 pages.

In polling reported by Gallup, for 45 years from 1952 to 1997, over 80 percent of Americans said there is “plenty of opportunity” in the country. By last year this was down to 52 percent.

The Tea Party is not an ideological movement. It is a movement of decent, hard-working Americans from quiet communities who are no longer willing to accept freedom and opportunity disappearing as result of the massive growth of government and a power-satiated political class in Washington.

Most of America’s Declaration of Independence consists of listing of the violations of the personal liberties of the American colonists by the King of England.

The founding of the country was not born of ideology but of the practical realities of individuals wanting to live free finding it harder and harder to do so.

Star Parker is an author and president of CURE, the Center for Urban Renewal and Education.