Is the Tea Party In Trouble For Caring About Social Issues?

Is the Tea Party in trouble because it has departed from economic issues and embraced social issues? That’s what Michael Turner argues at the National Review.

I think Turner cites information that should concern us all as we think about strategy and goals, but I also think he’s not considering all the relevant facts. Ultimately, his story is false. While he tells a tale of the Tea Party drifting from its core principles, it is actually Leftists who changed their strategy and started using the Federal Government to push social issues in order to get support for them and distract people from the fiscal disaster that they have brought nearer.

Sparked by outrage over the Wall Street bailouts, the original Tea Party was motivated by an opposition to Big Government. The motto of the Tea Party Patriots, one of the largest and most influential groups, was “fiscal responsibility, limited government, and free markets.” The Tea Party’s core issues were the skyrocketing national debt and opposition to Obamacare.

Social issues were not part of the platform. In fact, Jenny Beth Martin, leader of the Tea Party Patriots told the New York Times, “When people ask about [social issues], we say, ‘Go get involved in other organizations that already deal with social issues very well.’ We have to be diligent and stay on message.”

In an April 2010 CBS News/New York Times poll, barely 14 percent of Tea Party supporters said social issues were more important to them than economic issues.

Notice that Turner picks his issues carefully. He doesn’t say anything about the Tea Party and drug decriminalization, for example.

But “limited government” means resistance to the encroachments of the Federal government seeking to impose its will on the states. Back in 2008, Barack Obama was masquerading (however transparently) as someone who might be centrist and who did not believe in homosexual marriage. Since 2012 he has conveniently changed his mind and pushed hard to impose his perverse views through the power of the executive branch in every way he can.

The Tea Party was always about respecting the Constitution, including the Tenth Amendment, so naturally there was no way it could stand still for this and pretend it was off-mission.

There were other forces at work, of course. In order for a movement to continue it needs people who are willing to volunteer. If the people who are driven to do so also believe in “protection from murder equality” regardless of age or location inside and outside the womb, that is bound to be perceived as “drift.” Perhaps it is. But I doubt the movement would continue if you cut such people out of it.

Obama’s and Eric Holder’s surprise push for homosexual marriage is something that destroys the concept of Federalism, but Turner acts like opposing homosexual marriage means it is impossible to build a coalition with libertarians and fiscal conservatives.

If so, that’s a shame. But it wouldn’t be because the Tea Party is not the Tea Party. It would be because people who know we’re heading toward fiscal doomsday would rather sound “cool” about homosexual marriage than try to do anything to avert the end of the United States and a worldwide depression.

Whether or not the Tea Party can build a coalition and affect elections remains to be seen. It obviously failed to do so in 2012. Just as obviously, it was resisted and fought by the GOP in that election. We’ll have to see how 2014 and then 2016 go. It may well be that the country is too rotten to be helped by the Tea Party.

But that doesn’t mean that the failure is their fault.