Harvard Studies the Tea Party

A recent Harvard study entitled, “Do Protests Matter? Evidence from the Tea Party Movement,” examined the effect that protest has on political change. The study found that, “[P]rotests can build political movements that ultimately affect policymaking, and that these effects arise from influencing political views rather than solely through the revelation of existing political preferences.” The study was conducted by a team of researchers from around the world.

For all the talk on the left about how the Tea Party has splintered conservatives and been a drag on the Republican brand, the Harvard researchers discovered the opposite.

Amongst the conclusions derived from the exhaustive study, the report found that the Tea Party protests in 2009, “[I]ncreased turnout in favor of the Republican Party in the subsequent congressional elections and increased the likelihood that incumbent Democratic representatives decided to retire prior to the elections.”

The study continued, “Incumbent policymaking was also affected, as representatives responded to large protests in their district by voting more conservatively in Congress. In addition, we provide evidence that these effects were driven by a persistent increase in the movement’s strength.”

Most stunning, Harvard found that the Tea Party protests had a significant multiplier effects: for every protester, Republican votes increased by seven to fourteen votes.

It’s easy to get discouraged when you work in politics. Writers, politicians, organizers- ask them and if they’re being truthful they will tell you that while most of the time they get out of bed, encouraged by the prospects of a new day, sometimes it can be tough to see one piece of bad news after another scrawled out on the web or in the morning newspaper.

I often feel the same way. It can demoralize for a moment; but after a brief sigh, I think back on the ground the Tea Party and our push for conservative principles has covered.

The Tea Party Movement has matured. It began, as the original Tea Party in the Boston harbor did, with an idea- a collusion of patriots voicing their contempt for a government that no longer seems to listen to the people. We waved flags and we spoke of concepts that were important to us but, shamefully, punch-lines to the liberal elite who found our admiration for concepts such as “freedom,” “liberty,” “independence,” and “self-reliance” archaic and obsolete.

We kept on and that unsubtle eye-rolling and gest from the left turned to legitimate fear and as our movement took hold in Congress and in state governments, the smirks and laughter stopped. The smears began. In liberals’ eyes, our movement had graduated from a minor annoyance to a dangerous purveyor of a counter to their leftist narrative that big government was the answer.

The Harvard study now confirms that their fear was well-founded.

We do not, necessarily, identify with the Republican Party; we advance conservative ideas and it happens that conservatives are more likely to be found within the Republican Party rather than the Democratic Party.

The study offered the conclusion that it is not merely the spreading of relevant information at rallies that increases the effect on policymaking, but that the network of interactions can spur on a feeling of political efficacy.

In short: getting together with fellow patriots to demand change can provide a realization that despite what the leftist media might say, we are not alone in our beliefs that government has gotten too big and too unaccountable to the citizens.

The release of this study comes at around the same time as the release of a poll recently conducted by NSON that found that out of 500 American respondents, 47.8% identified with Tea Party principles while only 20.6% identified with progressive principles and 22.8% identified “neither.”

When we examine the apparent popularity of our message mixed with the effectiveness of our protests, it appears that the relentless smear campaign and cheap-shots aimed at the Tea Party from the left serve to try and undermine a very real threat to the left’s social and economic agendas.

We all get discouraged from time to time; but it is the relentless pursuit of government that respects the rights of the people that keeps us going. With strength in numbers and the knowledge that our calls for freedom are having an effect, we are taking back America piece by piece.