They don’t get it either.
A gay conservative group and some Tea Party leaders are campaigning to keep social issues off the Republican agenda.
In a letter to be released Monday, the group GOProud and leaders from groups like the Tea Party Patriots and the New American Patriots, will urge Republicans in the House and Senate to keep their focus on shrinking the government.
“On behalf of limited-government conservatives everywhere, we write to urge you and your colleagues in Washington to put forward a legislative agenda in the next Congress that reflects the principles of the Tea Party movement,” they write to presumptive House Speaker John Boehner and Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell in an advance copy provided to POLITICO. “This election was not a mandate for the Republican Party, nor was it a mandate to act on any social issue.”
The hubris would be stunning if it weren’t so comical and expected. There are more than 2,300 local Tea Party groups across the nation yet leaders from only 12 of them signed the document. Many of these organizations are headed up by former GOP backbenchers and activists, and most of them had no power or influence before the Tea Party came along. They assume that because they now have a podium, that they speak for the masses. Like many other libertarian and socially liberal Republicans, though, they live in a bubble, thinking that the rest of the movement shares their apathy or aversion to socially conservative causes.
They don’t seem to realize that they are out of touch with their own “movement.” A recent survey has shown that nearly half (47 percent) of Tea Party supporters consider themselves to be part of the conservative Christian movement. Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of Tea Partiers say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases, and only eighteen percent support same-sex marriage. Most Tea Partiers are part of the one-legged conservative coalition.
So why do these self-proclaimed leaders feel the need to speak out against our Representatives in Congress supporting social issues? After all, legislators are quite capable of focusing on both social and fiscal issues at the same time. The reason is that a full-fledged conservatism is the last thing these leaders want. The influence of single-issue advocacy groups (and the people who run them) gets watered down when a broader agenda is pursued.
Is that what the Tea Party is becoming? Not according to recent surveys of the local organizations. Less than half of the groups considered spending and limiting the size of government to be a primary concern of the Tea Party cause. Yet the movement’s leadership would prefer to focus only on those issues since it allows these second-tier players to gain influence and power inside the Beltway.
This disconnect between the movement’s leadership and the grassroots is the reason I don’t hold out much hope that the Tea Party will be sucessful over the longterm.
They are following the same pattern that has hurt the conservative movement and the Republican Party. Libertarians are a tiny minority within the conservative movement, yet they wield substantial power because the leaders within the social conservative wing fear offending them. Instead of standing up and refusing to be sent to the back of the bush, we get Mitch Daniel-style harrumphing about how we need to shut up about abortion because it offends the sensibilities of the social liberals who support tax cuts.
I fear that this is the direction the Tea Party movement is heading. If so, then its time we social conservatives threw this weak tea into the harbor.