God and gays in the GOP

God and Gays

by digby

I'm beginning to believe there might actually be a schism in the Republican coalition, something I didn't think would actually happen:

An ally of CPAC organizer David Keene and of Grover Norquist pushed back hard this morning against the boycott move that Rep. Jim Jordan joined last night.

"A certain kind of social conservative has had an absolute veto over what social policy should be among conservatives for decades, out of all proportion to their numbers," said James Higgins, who co-directs the conservative Monday Meeting in New York City. "And now that the Tea Party is so important, it's really out of proportion to their numbers."

Tea Party members are, polling suggests, quite socially conservative -- but aren't organized around those issues.

The Family Research Council -- whose Values Voter Summit is being set up, with the help of the Heritage Foundation, as a rival to CPAC -- "is on the fringe of the conservative coalition – it has always been on the fringe of the conservative coalition," Higgins said, noting that its former president, Gary Bauer "got less than one percent of the Republican primary vote in New Hampshire" in his 2000 presidential bid.

I've never heard anyone in the last 30 years describe the social conservatives as "the fringe" of the Republican coalition.

It isn't true, actually. The religious right is central to the Republican coalition and more importantly, it's central to their organizing. The Tea Party is a flash in the pan compared to the churches. And while it's true that the Tea party isn't organized around social conservatism, you'll find that Tea Partiers themselves don't always know that:
Jamie Ratdke, who recently stepped down as chairwoman of the Virginia Tea Party Patriots Federation in order to explore a Senate bid, said she began to consider a run for the Senate after attending a Tea Party convention that featured Rick Santorum, Lou Dobbs, and Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinnelli as speakers:

Radtke said that she had considered running for the state Senate next year but that she began thinking about the U.S. Senate instead after Virginia's first tea party convention, which drew an estimated 2,800 people to Richmond in October.

Radtke, who worked for Allen for a year when he was governor and she was right out of college, said it's time for a new candidate. She said that Allen was part of "George Bush's expansion of government" when he was senator and that she was concerned about some of his stances on abortion.

Allen has said that abortions should be legal in cases of rape, incest and when the life of the mother is endangered, and he owned stock in the manufacturer of the morning-after pill.

I don't know the numbers on this, but I think it's at least possible that many of the female Tea Partiers in particular are actually social conservatives who are following the zeitgeist or getting involved as activists with their husbands. (Sharron Angle and Christine Angle both came out of the Christian Right.) But who knows?

Meanwhile, it's dangerous for Republicans to think that the Tea party is separate from the religious right. They are just coming at it from a different direction:

"It's a movement about the Founding Fathers and what their faith was to this country, and how they brought faith over to this country," she says.

Smith is describing a "civil religion" that seems to appeal to many Tea Partiers: the idea that America was a divine experiment, that the Founding Fathers were Christian men who created a nation on biblical principles. She says America in 2010 has lost that.

"That's what started this whole downfall of America — taking God out of everything, and political correctness," Smith says. "We were founded on Judeo-Christian principles, and its like 'What's happened? Why aren't we fighting to save that?' They fought hard for that so why aren't we? So we're out here trying to fight for those principles."

And then there's Michael Giere, a mortgage banker and evangelical Christian. "We are a Judeo-Christian country, and I don't care who says we're not, we obviously are," he says.

Giere says religious conservatives are the sleeping giant in the Tea Party.

"The discussion of the day is on economics, but when you start peeling back that onion, there is devout faith spread throughout the Tea Party and spread throughout the Tea Party leadership," he says.

Polls show that Tea Party members are far more likely to be weekly churchgoers and conservative Christians than the population as a whole.

That is what Wendy Wright, president of the evangelical Concerned Women for America, has found. And she says she believes the Tea Party is prompting Americans to look closely at their religious heritage — in particular, at the faith and early writings of the Founding Fathers.

An August poll of nearly 800 Tea Party supporters revealed that a larger percentage than the general U.S. either "agreed" or "strongly agreed" that they were white evangelical Christians.

I couldn't be happier to see them starting to fight amongst themselves on this. If they manage to undermine their relationship with the Christian Right, so much the better in my book. But they usually are pretty careful about this sort of thing. it's a testament to how powerful the far right in the party has become, whether Christian Right or "libertarian" that they are jostling for power.