Social conservatives and the Christian right are taking on the rhetoric of the tea party activists, who form the main opposition to President Obama’s healthcare reform initiative and stimulus spending.
The Los Angeles Times (March 11) reports that social conservatives are exploring the “morality of debt and the risks to religious freedom posed by growing government. Like the tea party activists, they reverently invoke the Founding Fathers, but emphasize the role the founders’ faith played in their writings.” The mainstream of today’s conservative movement as expressed in the tea parties and last month’s Conservative Political Action Conferences stressed economic issues far more than moral-religious ones.
But new groups started in the last year have sought to build new bridges between fiscal conservatives and social conservatives. Newt Gingrich co-founded Renewing American Leadership, which states “that the strength of American capitalism and government lies in their Judeo-Christian roots,” writes Kathleen Hennessey. Ralph Reed, former head of the Christian Coalition, recently founded the Faith and Freedom Coalition, which aims to boost voter turnout among evangelicals and was already active in New Jersey and Virginia Republican victories in elections for governor last November. Lee Edwards of the Heritage Foundation said that the greater willingness of the new generation of the Christian right to compromise and work together with differing groups can be seen in their embrace of the tea parties, although both sides have reservations.
Social conservatives say they will support the tea parties as long as activists don’t start advocating for abortion and against traditional marriage. Some tea party leaders, meanwhile, fear that social issues, apart from those concerning the economy, will only distract conservative activists.