Tea Party Delusion
I attended a lecture the other night by “America is a Christian nation” advocate David Barton, of Wallbuilders, who contends that almost all of the Founding Fathers were Bible-believing, evangelical Christians.
The event was sponsored by several tea party groups in the Philadelphia area. Emotions ran high. The crowd enthusiastically applauded the speaker each time he made his “we have always been a Christian nation” points. He went to some length to show how linked social issues and economic issues are.
And by social issues what he means is abortion and same-sex marriage.
He drew a cause-and-effect connection between politicians who are pro-life and those who are also fiscal conservatives. Conversely, those pols who receive high marks from pro-choice groups also score high with big “tax and spend” voters. Barton lacks the logical sophistication to recognize that there’s a difference between cause and correlation.
While I agree that Judeo-Christian principles did play a major role in our founders’ thinking, there was also a significant blend of Enlightenment principles as well. Both streams of thought account for the great American experiment. This is why you can find strong arguments on both sides of the “America as a Christian nation” argument. (I will be addressing this in more detail in future posts – sign up for my email list to receive notices).
What astounded me most was that this crowd of over 500 tea partiers were enthusiastic Romney supporters. Each time Barton would make a point on abortion, marriage, or on fiscal issues like balancing the budget or cutting taxes he would declare how critical it is that we vote Obama out and Romney in.
Here I have three observations:
1. The Tea Party is the New Moral Majority
The tea party started out as a group concerned exclusively about the stimulus, bailouts, TARP, and the size of government. It has morphed into the latest version of the old religious right ala’ Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority. When Rick Santelli made his hysteric (and I don’t mean that in a bad way) plea for a modern-day revolt like the Boston Tea Party to the country on CNBC back in February, ’09, thousands of people throughout the country rallied to the cause. Grass-root events sprung up all over. People got organized, learned the political process, and began voting candidates into office. The result was the overwhelming GOP take-over of the Congress in 2010. The problem is that many of the newly awakened tea party activists brought with them a socially conservative agenda as well. Barton is one of those who has effectively exploited tea party fervor for his particular vision of America’s past and his hopes for its future.
2. Romney Is Opposite to the Tea Party
Mitt Romney is no religious right candidate – not only is he not a convinced social conservative who will effectively do anything about abortion or same-sex marriage, he supported the stimulus, bailouts, TARP and is, in fact, a big government Republican. His positions are antithetically opposed to the views of the tea party in its inception and in its current manifestation. The tea party is supposed to be a small and limited government movement calling our country back to our Constitutional roots. In our area there are numerous home meetings where the constitution is studied and applied. Most of the people I’ve met and talked to were wholeheartedly against the stimulus, bailouts, TARP and the viral growth of federal regulations. His pick of Paul Ryan as running mate was designed to help shore up support among the right-wing of the party. To a large extent this worked but, ironically, Ryan himself voted for all those bills that the tea party was birthed to reverse.
3. The Tea Party Missed Its True Candidate
If the tea party was truly serious about the Constitution like it says it is and if it had stayed focused on the fiscal and limited government issues, then it would have recognized they had their true champion in Ron Paul. Interestingly, Ron Paul is himself an evangelical Christian. He is the only candidate who ran in the GOP 2012 primaries that actually ran on the very issues that created the tea party. He is the only candidate that gave a plausible explanation for why we are in the mess we are in today. Ron Paul is the only candidate that predicted the economic collapse brought on by the very policies advocated and voted on by Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, i.e., stimulus, Federal Reserve monetary policies, more spending (Ryan’s cuts are not really cuts but decreases in the increase in spending), corporate subsidies, Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac, etc. He is the only candidate that would actually restore America to a small, Constitutionally limited government. Instead of recognizing the true “tea party” candidate, tea partiers have chosen loyalty to party over loyalty to the Constitution they fervently believe in. If anyone doubts the absolute consistency of Dr. Paul’s views with original tea party ideas, I encourage you to watch this video of candidate Paul in its entirety.
David Barton advocates restoring our country to our original “Christian” roots which is itself an extremely simplistic view of our history. He and other social conservative groups have co-opted the tea party movement. Consequently, the GOP establishment has been able to placate it with lip service to social issues while at the same time subverting the very issues that gave rise to the tea party to begin with. The tea party movement has been compromised and, worse, has become deluded.
What do you think? Is the tea party deluded or am I?