Wow. Our experiment is off to a great start—let's see if we can finish it off sooner than expected.
Over the weekend, the conservative gay group GOProud co-authored a letter with some libertarian-leaning tea party activists calling on the GOP leadership in Congress to stay focused on the tea party's core fiscal issues, and not to go down the "rabbit hole" of divisive social issues like gay marriage and abortion. The move hasn't gone over too well with establishment evangelical groups, which have had an uneasy relationship with the burgeoning tea party movement from the beginning. I called the Family Research Council yesterday for a comment for a story I wrote on the issue, but never got a call back. Instead, FRC seems to have issued its response online, writing in its Washington update:
A group that had nothing to do with bringing the Republicans to power suddenly wants to dictate what the party does with it. GOProud, an aggressive pro-homosexual organization that desperately wants to be taken seriously by conservatives, is trying to force its way into the movement by persuading a small handful of tea partiers to sign on to a social truce for the 112th Congress...
FRC points out what we noted, which is that most tea partiers are firmly in the social conservative camp:
According to the latest data, an overwhelming number of Tea Partiers (almost two-thirds) believe abortion should be outlawed. About half believe in the Bible as the literal word of God, and most think that public officials don't pay nearly enough attention to it or religion as a whole. According to Zogby data, 82% of them oppose same-sex "marriage."
And the group sees a bit of hypocrisy in GOProud's call for Republicans to abandon social issues even as the group lobbies them for a repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't tell" and other expansions of gay rights. FRC takes this as a call for one-sided disarmament, which it soundly rejects:
For starters, that won't fly with the broader Tea Party movement which is solidly in the social conservative camp (see DeMint, Jim). Secondly, it's a losing strategy for America. We need to shrink the size of government, but America needs strong families. Those families—not GOProud's phony substitutes—are the backbone of society. Think about the welfare costs associated with the breakdown of social order. Think about the cost in terms of crime and the criminal justice system. What about the loss of human potential? Do these folks really think we can just eliminate those government expenditures overnight? What this crowd is advocating will lead to anarchy, which, ironically, would provide GOProud and friends a perfect environment for their lifestyle.
While the tea party movement may be in the beginning of an internecine battle to define itself as the movement of smaller government or one that also wades into fights over social issues, it's clear from the FRC blog today that the Republican Party is still engaged in a bit of a civil war. And that battle is likely to be fought not over any libertarian versus social issue focus, but over allegiances. Does the grand old party align itself with the new tea party activists (who are also socially conservative) or remain loyal to the old reliable foot-soldiers of the Religious Right embodied in the FRC? Keeping both camps happy is likely to be a Herculean political task, and at some point, the party is going to have to pick a side.