During the long cold winter of January 2009, Republicans were dreading the impending thaw of an Obama Administration. It was just after the massive "compassionate conservative" bank bailouts, the economy was hemorrhaging millions of jobs and yet a CBS/New York Times poll reported President George W. Bush still had a 22% approval rating.
It was the end of a disastrous second term, a bitter end to a bitter era. It was back when the best thing anyone could say about Bush was, "He showed some great reflexes when he dodged those shoes, huh?" So one could guess around 22% is pretty much the core of the Right. The die hards. The ones who will forgive anything (i.e. Katrina, no WMDs, children left behind etc.). Biker gangs have their "one percenters" "“ Republicans have their 20 percenters. They too should get a patch. Republicans like leather, right?
Speaking of respectable Republican cloth coat's, even President Richard Nixon had a 27% approval rating months before he resigned, of course that was a more polite era "“ less slander more assassinations. The point is, the nucleus of Republicans is absolutely committed to their guys regardless. Twenty percent is the baseline number "“ the base.
Put a necktie on a German Shepherd who's strong on defense and hates taxes and if he's a Republican he will get at least a 20% approval rating nationally (as long as he's not openly gay or Mormon). He doesn't even have to be running for anything. Just wearing something that has a flag pin attached so people will know he loves freedom.
Last year an Associated Press-GfK poll found only 21% of adults now identify themselves as Republicans. This is much smaller than just a couple months prior at 28%. And since the now sainted and intellectually irreproachable President Ronald Reagan said the 11th Commandment is "Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican," the party now has tons more Americans they can speak ill of. They are less than a quarter of adults currently; leaner and meaner.
So it is not surprising to hear a Gallup Poll report that 28% of Americans support the Tea Party. One can assume that it's mainly Republican support and so it's not a coincidence the devout of the GOP hovers around that same number.
What is surprising is to hear is Republicans or Tea Partiers calling themselves the "silent majority," a throwback to the some Republican Revolution rhetoric back when family values House Speaker Newt Gingrich was still on his second wife. Now "silent majority" is a double misnomer due to their decibels and their numbers. Even if no Tea Baggers were Republicans and vice versa, if you added the two groups together currently, according to the data, they would still not be a majority of Americans.
The majority of Americans voted for Barack Obama. They did. By an overwhelming margin. He was the better candidate. Our economy was in a freefall. They voted for a policy wonk. They voted for the candidate who won the debates. They voted for a dude whose middle name is the same as an evil dictator's last name we took out because it wasn't relevant. That's the actual majority.
According to a Winston Group study that came out this month, 86% of the Tea Partiers are over 34 years old. Are they the "new" GOP? For the most part they put the "old" in the Grand Old Party. They're older Americans who are upset their candidate wasn't good enough. They're angry. They're afraid of "change" but like to threaten revolution and secession. They get so much press because of the novelty of America's crotchety great-aunts and uncles shaking their Medicare covered fists at The Man. It's like the soda ads where old people drink Pepsi and start acting like crazy teenagers. But it's tea!
But no matter how much attention they receive, they are still the 20 Percenters.
Tina Dupuy is an award-winning writer and the editor of FishbowlLA.com. Follow Tina on Twitter @TinaDupuy.