The Tea Party vote helped Republicans retake the House. So congressional Republicans can count on Tea Party support for their whole agenda, right? Wrong. A letter to presumptive Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell urges Republican legislators to concentrate on foundational Tea Party principles--smaller government, lower taxes--and to sidestep divisive social issues like abortion and gay rights. Analysts are pointing out that the letter, signed by gay conservatives and state Tea Party leaders and scheduled for release Monday, points up some of the tensions between different components of the congressional right wing.
All We Care About Is Smaller Government Politico reports that the letter has 17 signatories, including the gay conservative group GOProud and a number of state and regional Tea Party organizations. Ralph King, a signatory and co-chairman of the Ohio Tea Party Patriots, told Politico, "When they were out in the Boston Harbor, they weren't arguing about who was gay or who was having an abortion ... I look at myself as pretty socially conservative. But that's not what we push through the Tea Party Patriots." Christopher Barron, chairman of GOProud, points out that "for almost two years now, the tea party has been laser-focused on the size of government... No one has been talking about social issues."
Don't Hijack Our Movement "This election was not a mandate for the Republican Party, nor was it a mandate to act on any social issue, nor should it be interpreted as a political blank check," the letter reads in part. "Already, there are Washington insiders and special interest groups that hope to co-opt the Tea Party's message and use it to push their own agenda – particularly as it relates to social issues. We are disappointed but not surprised by this development. We recognize the importance of values but believe strongly that those values should be taught by families and our houses of worship and not legislated from Washington, D.C."
This Friction Won't Be Ending Anytime Soon The Politico piece, by Ben Smith and Bryan Tau, says that the letter "underscores many of the tensions and divisions in the freewheeling, leaderless tea party movement." The authors write that "economic and social conservatives have sparred for months over the priority of questions like abortion and gay rights... and while their agendas often overlap - foes of abortion and big government alike opposed the health care overhaul - the small-government impulses of the new conservative grassroots groups have sometimes come into conflict with the desire of religious conservatives to give the federal government a moral role."
A Reckoning Is Coming, agrees Doug Mataconis at Outside the Beltway. "If the Tea Party wants to remain true to its limited government principles, then it strikes me that the default position would be less government and more personal freedom, whether the issue being dealt with involves economics or so-called 'social issues,'" Mataconis writes. "At some point this unnatural split in the GOP's view on freedom will have to be reconciled."
How This Will Likely Play Out "It is unlikely that McConnell and Boehner will follow that advice," writes Bridgette LaVictoire at the blog Lez Get Real, "because to do so will be to alienate the likes of Tony Perkins of the so-called Family Research Council, Brian Brown over at the National Organization for (Christian) Marriage, and the not really American Family Association. In fact, those people warned that if social issues were thrown by the wayside, they'd go into rebellion." LaVictoire guesses that groups like GOProud will find themselves "sold up the river without a single secondary thought from the anti-LGBT Republicans."