Posted on Monday 20 September 2010

Values Voters Woo the Tea Party
Mother Jones

By Stephanie Mencimer
September 20, 2010

Last year, the Family Research Council’s DC Values Voters Summit was about as establishment Republican an event as you can get. The entire GOP congressional leadership addressed the crowd of evangelical activists and Mike Huckabee, a longtime favorite of social conservatives, won the conference’s presidential straw poll in a landslide.

How things have changed in one year: Not a single member of the Republican leadership made the trek to DC’s Omni Shoreham hotel for this year’s summit. Instead, the event was dominated by tea-party-caucus types like Representatives Michele Bachmann [R-MN] and Sen. Jim DeMint [R-SC], along with newly minted conservative rock star Christine O’Donnell, the surprise winner of the Delaware GOP senate primary. And in a startling indicator of just how much the political landscape has shifted, Huckabee was edged out of the 2012 straw poll by tea party favorite and Indiana congressman Mike Pence. [Sarah Palin placed fifth.]

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, told me that his group had invited top Republicans such as House Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner [R-OH] and Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell [ R-KY], both of whom had attended last year, but none had jumped on the offer, citing campaign conflicts. Their absence suggested that the GOP leadership might have feared that it would be facing a hostile crowd. After all, it represents the party mainstream that has failed to back insurgent conservatives such as Alaskan senatorial candidate Joe Miller and O’Donnell.

As much as the Values Voter Summit may have reflected the new Republican reality, it was clear at the conference that the tea party movement and the old Christian Coalition are not one as the same. Only about a third of the attendees I talked to had even been to a tea party event. More than one person commented on tea partiers’ political inexperience. I got the sense that many thought that while the tea party is certainly exciting, it may not be around a year from now — unlike the religious right, which has been battling against abortion and moral decay all these many years…
I’ve always wondered about the "values voters." I am not blind. I get the point that their feeling is that if they vote as a bloc, they’ll prevail. But what they’ve done is turn their electorate into people who don’t evaluate the candidate based on anything except the specific answers to a few simple questions:
  1. Are you a Christian?
  2. Are you opposed to Abortion and Stem Cell Research?
  3. Do you oppose homosexuality and homosexual rights?
That’s about it. For the last decades[s], the Republicans have been able to merge a lot of other stuff into the mix – small government, free-market economy, low taxes, blind support for immoral wars, lots of stuff. And for the life of me, I’m not clear what the Tea Party is about. They seem to me to be a bit Libertarian, a bit Christian Right, a little Republican, and very, very gullible.

The Republican Party is right now the Party of the rich, fighting tooth and toenail to keep taxes low, to regain power. For the life of me, I can’t see why they would want power. If they keep protecting the rich, the banks, Wall Street, only doom will follow and sooner or later, the peasants will revolt. What I’m wondering is if this split between the Republicans, the Tea Party, and the Religious Right means that it has already occurred. Without the Religious Right and the Tea Party, the Republicans are in big trouble. That doesn’t mean that the Democrats gain anything particularly, unless these bloc voting factions begin to fragment and compete.

It would be kind of nice if these people expanded their horizons and voted for the candidates based on a more complex formula that those three criteria mentioned above. This is the real legacy of George W. Bush. He and Karl Rove sewed this bunch together. So long as it lasts, we’re toast [we, as in Americans]…

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