Tea Party Delusion

by Kenneth E. Hines on October 2, 2012

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?

  • DennisDM

    Ken, interesting observations. My impressions of the Tea Party were that they mostly were fiscal conservatives concerned about the direction our country was going vis-a-vis spending and government size. While I think there are a lot of Christians within the movement, I don’t believe that the views expressed at your rally are universal. In some ways, I wish we could get away from the “Christian Nation” narrative. It is clear to me, based on my understanding of scripture, that Christian is a personal thing not a collective thing. Our Constitution and the Bill of Rights certainly were influenced by Judeo-Christian principles, however, and the more we drift away from how this noble experiment started, the more we show our disdain for those principles.

    I am also of the firm belief that we cannot as Christians be silent on issues that are not in line with our beliefs. I think the Church in the west has bought into the separation argument and, as a result, has lost its way. We cannot ignore our faith while talking about politics anymore than we can separate our minds from our souls and we have, in my view, an obligation to use our faith to inform our politics. Of course, as I have experienced, the results may vary from Christian to Christian…we are, after all, still humans.

    As for presidential candidates, Romney was not my first choice among the republican hopefuls, but he is my choice now. It comes down to a choice in direction for our country – at least fiscally – and I fear what four more years of the current adminstration would mean.

    Just my 2 cents.

  • Richard Rutledge

    Tea Party Letter

    Tea party activists: Don’t confuse them with

    partiers are disgruntled social conservatives aiming to take control of the
    Republican Party. Independents are the antiparty force, trying to restructure
    the partisan political system.

    This is the title of an article written
    by Jackie Salit is the president of IndependentVoting.org,
    a national association of independent voters and these sentiments are held by
    many in the minor Party ranks.

    When the leadership of Tea Parties
    become corrupted by becoming part of the Oligarchic system and begin both
    promoting only one Party and opposing all outside the 2 party system then those
    individuals become enemies of the Constitutionalists movement and MUST be dealt
    with! The Tea Party movement MUST remain pure in the fight to elect Statesmen
    who represent the ideals of our Founders REGARDLESS of what brand they choose
    to wear!

    This does NOT mean that we become
    Anti-Republican, Anti-Democrat or Anti-Minor Party but PRO Constitutional
    Conservative. We must realize that the “Spirit of Party” as
    Washington put it and the Oligarchy it represents is the real enemy of the
    Republic. BOTH Major Parties are = in their power madness and = in corruption.
    BOTH Major parties are controlled by the same behind the veil Oligarch elites.
    We must find ways to break that control by identifying and working to elect
    Statesmen who will protect this REPUBLIC regardless of the Party label or brand
    they wear.

    The Tea Party movement MUST remain non partisan and
    continue to support the Constitutionalists candidates REGARDLESS of Party.
    Richard Rutledge

    Chairman Conservative Party (Alabama)

  • Richard Rutledge

    Several months ago i wrote a piece that speaks to part of what you speak here. That part is that our Founders instituted a Government that was designed to ONLY function in the governance of a people with a particular moral core.

    Here is that article.

    The critical aspect of having a core Morality in a Free

    The issue in a free society like our Republic of morality is crucial as the
    population has a much higher personal level of responsibility than in a society
    that is more authoritarian and controlled. If a population governed under a
    republican form of government as a whole looses it’s sense of morality and
    becomes corrupt the very freedom built into that system in itself quickly
    becomes a license for behavior that degrades the society as a whole.
    Unfortunately as a nation we are currently no longer showing the level of
    morality and responsibility to allow us to preserve these freedoms and

    “The sum of it all is, if we would most truly enjoy the gift of Heaven,
    let us become a virtuous people; then shall we both deserve and enjoy it. While
    on the other hand , if we are universally vicious and debauched in our manners,
    though the form of our Constitution carries the face of the most exalted
    freedom, we shall in reality be the most abject slaves.” John Adams

    We must clearly understand that it
    is not the Democrats or Republicans (although IMO the entire 2 party system is
    part of our overall problem) who are responsible for our decline but US as a

    John Adams as well as many of our Founders understood this. Here are
    some of Adams wise words in particular on the subject

    “if we are universally vicious and debauched in our manners, though the
    form of our Constitution carries the face of the most exalted freedom, we shall
    in reality be the most abject slaves.”

    Another historical figure saw clearly one aspect in particular of what we
    are facing in our nation today.

    “Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance
    prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized
    conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will
    be safe.”

    Frederick Douglass

    Many today are searching for a political solution to a problem that is
    absolutely not political but is instead spiritual and moral in this land.

    Government can only demand accountability for actions and impose bondage,
    for it is personal morality that regulates true behavior. As a society we have
    abandoned our moral base and are increasingly becoming more debased and lawless.
    The result of this is the form of government ( a free Republic) we now enjoy is
    quickly becoming problematic as we no longer have the temperament to govern

    We consistently hear political leaders speak about restoring the
    Republic that our Founders created but few speak that for that republic to
    function we must also restore the MORALITY in our society that the system was
    intended to function with. These items are NOT mutually exclusive!!

    Franklin who was arguable the most
    secular of this nation’s founders understood this profoundly when he penned
    these words.

    The worship of God is a duty…Freedom is not a gift bestowed upon us by
    other men, but a right that belongs to us by the laws of God and nature… I
    never doubted the existence of the Deity, that he made the world, and governed
    it by His Providence…The pleasures of this world are rather from God’s
    goodness than our own merit… Whoever shall introduce into the public affairs
    the principles of primitive (essential) Christianity will change the face of
    the world… Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.” – Benjamin

    Richard Rutledge

    Chairman Conservative
    Party (Alabama)


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