Ever since Ron Paul won the CPAC straw poll, traditional Religious Right activists have been arguing that the event was overtaken by Libertarians and therefore did not represent “true” conservatives … a belief that was only reinforced by the fact that Young Americans for Freedom’s Ryan Sorba was booed by the audience for his attack from the stage on the conservative gay group GOProud.
For decades, CPAC has been the conservative gathering in Washington, but this year a man who for years had been relegated to the sidelines of the movement suddenly won the event’s straw poll thanks largely to the support from Tea Party activists, which re-exposed a basic rift between the economic conservatives and social conservatives that in recent years the movement has been trying hard to bridge … apparently without much success:
The rise of a new conservative grass roots fueled by a secular revulsion at government spending is stirring fears among leaders of the old conservative grass roots, the evangelical Christian right.
A reeling economy and the massive bank bailout and stimulus plan were the triggers for a resurgence in support for the Republican Party and the rise of the tea party movement. But they’ve also banished the social issues that are the focus of many evangelical Christians to the background.
And while health care legislation has brought social and economic conservatives together to fight government funding of abortion, some social conservative leaders have begun to express concern that tea party leaders don’t care about their issues, while others object to the personal vitriol against President Barack Obama, whose personal conduct many conservative Christians applaud.
“There’s a libertarian streak in the tea party movement that concerns me as a cultural conservative,” said Bryan Fischer, director of Issue Analysis for Government and Public Policy at the American Family Association. “The tea party movement needs to insist that candidates believe in the sanctity of life and the sanctity of marriage.”
There’s no centralized tea party organization, and anecdotes suggest that many tea party participants hold socially conservative views. But those views have been little in evidence at movement gatherings or in public statements, and are sometimes deliberately excluded from the political agenda. The groups coordinating them eschew social issues, and a new Contract From America, has become an article of concern on the social right.
The contract, sponsored by the grass-roots Tea Party Patriots as well as Washington groups such as FreedomWorks and Americans for Tax Reform, asks supporters to choose the 10 most important issues from a menu of 21 choices that makes no mention of socially conservative priorities such as gay marriage and abortion.
“They’re free to do it, but they can’t say [the contract] represents America,” said Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, a veteran of the Christian right. “If they do it they’re lying.”
Groups such as FreedomWorks, said Perkins, bring a libertarian bias that doesn’t represent the “true tea parties.”
As we noted a few weeks ago, social conservatives like Perkins have long been at war with Tea Party/economic conservatives like Dick Armey, but had recently swallowed their pride and linked up with Armey’s FreedomWorks in an attempt to get in on the Tea Party activism which Armey’s activism has come to represent:
Tea party activism is so entirely driving the right-wing movement at the moment that the most influential Religious Right organization is willing to co-host an event with a group lead by a man who publicly and repeatedly insulted them as stupid, shallow demagogues just to get in on the action.
If that doesn’t tell you just where the Religious Right fits in to the conservative movement, I don’t know what does.
And now you have Perkins claiming that FreedomWorks doesn’t represent the “true tea parties,” which is laughably pathetic and just goes to prove, as we have been arguing all along, that the Religious Right is desperately trying to co-opt the Tea Party narrative and graft their own religious agenda on to a movement that, from its founding, has had no real interest in such issues.