DeMint-y Fresh
Like a lot of political observers, I have spent a fair bit of time trying to figure out the dynamics of the tea party movement. Some might say too much, but only time will tell whether the movement’s impact at the ballot box will be commensurate with the current flood of attention it receives from the media. Be that as it may, I continue to find the assertion (which I heard again last night) that tea partiers are focused primarily on fiscal responsibility and are largely agnostic on social issues to be problematic.
It is true that some recent polling shows a genuine fissure in the movement along these lines, essentially between Ron Paul libertarians and Sarah Palin social conservatives. But the most powerful institutional players affiliated with the movement seem to reside in the Republican Party’s hardcore social and religious conservative base. These folks largely view Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) and his loyal supporters as a nuisance.
Case in point is Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC), who is perhaps one of the strongest tea party proponents in Congress. In a recent interview, DeMint declared that he views the tea party movement as indicative of a spiritual revival among its supporters, and he concluded that the movement represents a turning back to God for salvation, as manifested in citizen yearning for smaller government.
It is of course hard to know whether a majority of tea partiers share DeMint’s religious interpretation of the movement. But for me, this feeds into my general hunch that for all the legitimate concern in the movement about taxes and spending, it’s potential as a force in Republican Party politics really resides with social and religious conservatives on the right, where elites like DeMint and Gov. Sarah Palin reside. Let me be clear – if a majority of tea partiers want a movement that melds fiscal and social conservatism, then that is their prerogative. I’m simply trying to understand the forces at work here.
Note: I will be away tomorrow, but back on Friday. -Dean

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