(Mathew Jarzen) – Ever since the beginning of the first national T.E.A. Party rallies I’ve studied the movement with an intense interest.
Beginning as a grassroots movement expressing rage and frustration over the establishment in Washington’s incessant ignorance to the will of the people, the Tea Party has now evolved into a driving political force mostly within the Republican Party, nominating and backing candidates for political office.
We saw that right here in Nevada during the 2010 Republican primaries when the Tea Party Express, a Sacramento-based organization created by a Republican-consulting firm, gave their endorsement to Sharron Angle—then one of the second tier candidates for the U.S. Senate.
Of course, the rest of that is history—at least here in Nevada. What happens now though is to wait and see how many of the Tea Party-backed candidates who won Congressional seats perform in the new session starting in January.
However, this article isn’t totally about the results of the 2010 Congressional elections or what influence the Tea Party had over it, but rather my questions center around two things: 1) Where do I fit in? 2) The future of the movement.
Consider this; though I am a Conservative Republican, I’m also 23 years old and in college. Not only would I normally not even statistically be either a Conservative or Republican, but I wouldn’t even be a “Tea Partier.”
Though I’m not a “Tea Partier,” I do support the movement because of its very simple message: Less spending, less taxes, less government interference in my life. Also, it’s perhaps the biggest popular Conservative movement ever which is something one rarely sees.
Gallup did polling on the Tea Party and found that by and large, the Tea Party—demographically—is fairly representative of America as a whole. Awesome.
What strikes me though is the age break-down amongst the Tea Party. According to Gallup, only sixteen percent of the Tea Party is made up of people between the ages of 18-29—the same demographic by-the-way that voted 66 percent for Barack Obama in 2008.
People between 30-49 years old make up one of the largest portions at 34 percent. This makes sense because its generally these people who—provided they haven’t lost them yet—have jobs and pay taxes.
However, it’s people over the age of 50 who make up over half of the Tea Party. These are the people who are either getting ready to retire or are retired.
Of all of these, occupationally, only four percent are considered students—generally between the ages of 18-24.
So, with sixteen percent of Tea Partiers being between the ages of 18-29, age-wise, I fit in just fine. I agree with the message and by and large the Tea Party has done a good job of staying away from social issues which generally turns young people away from the Republican Party.
Yet, young people aren’t drawn to the Tea Party. Why? Two things: The message and who presents that message.
What’s the message? Taxes and spending. That doesn’t register quite as high as say saving the planet on the sexy issue scale.
Why? Because taxes are boring and young people don’t pay taxes. So why should we give a damn?
Why should we also care about spending? After all, my generation has been raised to believe that the government MUST do things to help people and in order to do so it has to spend money.
Sure all of this spending is going to come back to haunt us like a dead prostitute, but since my generation has grown accustomed to being instantly gratified, if it doesn’t affect us now, it doesn’t matter.
Think of this unsustainable spending like taking a final in college. We don’t begin to care until the day before the test! Until then, we’ll be on Facebook or Youtube watching cat videos.
Also, who packages that message? Young people are incredibly susceptible to marketing—hence my purchasing of 200 leopard-print Snuggies—and a lot of it has to do with either who is presenting or how something is being presented.
So when young people watch the Daily Show or in a misguided attempt to appear intellectual, read the New York Times, the image they get of the Tea Party is severely skewed so that young people see a movement of crusty old people who believe President Barack Obama is a Kenyan Muslim.
This brings me to my last question about the future of the Tea Party movement and by extension the Conservative movement as a whole.
To figure this out, I do what I naturally do—snort cocaine and look to history for my answer.
Think about it for a minute. Why has liberalism managed to survive for the last 40 years? Think about the last major liberal movement—the counter-culture and anti-war protests of the late 60s and early 70s. Rather, think about who was involved in those movements 40 years ago.
The answer is basically people between the ages of 18-29 were involved. The reason radical liberalism has survived for over 40 years is because those involved aged with the movement so in effect, the radical, leftist movements of the late 60s and 70s are still on-going and essentially never ended.
They took what they learned protesting in the streets and applied it to their jobs in government, media and academia. Just look at the notorious radical leftist and friend, but not really a friend, of President Obama, Bill Ayers.
Ayers is founder and former member of the radical, leftist terror group known as the Weather Underground. Today, this guy now teaches twenty-somethings at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
The Tea Party movement—a Conservative movement—has half of its participants already over the hill and they just started, meanwhile liberals have been doing this for over 40 years.
The problem the Tea Party now faces is that because so many of their members are old, they can’t build a foundation for Conservatism in time. See, after liberals left the street protests in exchange for university tenure, they began to turn their stupid ideas into a foundation to create more liberals.
Right now the Tea Party doesn’t have that unless they can attract young people to their movement where they can then build a foundation of Conservatism in later years.
To do that though the Tea Party, Conservatives and even the Republican Party have to deliver their message in a way my generation will understand and give us a leader who can not only deliver that message, but inspires us at the same time.
Until they do, the Tea Party will remain a movement that has to go to bed by eight o’clock just after they’ve watched Murder She Wrote, slowly becoming a footnote in American political history.
(Mr. Jarzen is a former president of the UNLV College Republicans in Las Vegas)