Popularity of 'Don't Tread on Me' plates in Virginia suggests Tea Party still strong

A Virginia license plate with the Tea Party-embraced “Don’t Tread on Me” logo is a big seller, suggesting the movement remains popular, at least in the state, even after a tough loss in this year’s gubernatorial election.

At least five other states also sell the specialty plates: Arizona, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas. But in Virginia, the tag ranks No. 2 among such plates approved in the past five years and ninth among more than 200 total.

The tag was issued to roughly 21,800 Virginia-registered vehicles in just the first 20 months of sales, according to state figures reported by The Virginian-Pilot newspaper.

“It is a symbol of frustration … a symbol of disgust with the government,” David Dwyer, a former Hampton Roads Tea Party chairman, told the newspaper.

The sales figures for the “Don’t Tread on Me” plates indicate more than just Tea Party members are buying them, which Dwyer suggests is an indication the movement’s mantra of less-government and no new taxes resonates with many Americans.

“I’m seeing [the tags] everywhere now,” added Hampton Roads Tea Party chairman Keith Freeman.

The state approved the logo, which resembles the rattlesnake-emblazoned historic Gadsden Flag, in 2011, after the movement helped Republicans win back the House a year earlier in the landslide, mid-term elections.

However, this was a tough year for conservative voters in Virginia. Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli lost to Democrat Terry McAuliffe in November in a race many political strategists called a test case for the 2016 elections.

Several other Virginia specialty plates with political themes are less popular, compared to the one with the Revolutionary-era “Don’t Tread on Me” flag.

Roughly 1,600 vehicles have the abortion-rights “Trust Women/Respect Choice” plate while about 5,400 have the anti-abortion “Choose Life” message, according to the paper.

The state’s specialty plates cost an additional $10, though some revenue-sharing tags cost more.