Last week, Jim DeMint fired a shot on behalf of social conservatism, and this week, gay Republican group GOProud is counterattacking with a press release speaking for “a group of Tea Party leaders and activists”who urge “Republicans in Congress to avoid social issues and focus instead on issues of economic freedom and individual liberty”:
On behalf of limited government conservatives everywhere we write to urge you and your colleagues in Washington to put forward a legislative agenda in the next Congress that reflects the principles of the Tea Party movement.
Poll after poll confirms that the Tea Party’s laser focus on issues of economic freedom and limited government resonated with the American people on Election Day. The Tea Party movement galvanized around a desire to return to constitutional government and against excessive spending, taxation and government intrusion into the lives of the American people.
The Tea Party movement is a non-partisan movement, focused on issues of economic freedom and limited government, and a movement that will be as vigilant with a Republican-controlled Congress as we were with a Democratic-controlled Congress.
This election was not a mandate for the Republican Party, nor was it a mandate to act on any social issue, nor should it be interpreted as a political blank check.
But as Joe Carter points out, not only does this letter not speak for the majority of the Tea Party, but its signatories are the ones out of step with the movement:
There are more than 2,300 local Tea Party groups across the nation yet leaders from only 12 of them signed the document […] They don’t seem to realize that they are out of touch with their own “movement.” A recent survey has shown that nearly half (47 percent) of Tea Party supporters consider themselves to be part of the conservative Christian movement. Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of Tea Partiers say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases, and only eighteen percent support same-sex marriage. Most Tea Partiers are part of the one-legged conservative coalition.
GOProud might not like it, but we belong here every bit as much as (actually, even more than) they do. And you can’t really claim to stand for “individual liberty” if you don’t recognize that human rights begin in the womb.
GOProud and (a tiny sliver of) the Tea Party continue:
Already, there are Washington insiders and special interest groups that hope to co-opt the Tea Party’s message and use it to push their own agenda – particularly as it relates to social issues. We are disappointed but not surprised by this development. We recognize the importance of values but believe strongly that those values should be taught by families and our houses of worship and not legislated from Washington, D.C.
We urge you to stay focused on the issues that got you and your colleagues elected and to resist the urge to run down any social issue rabbit holes in order to appease the special interests.
The Tea Party movement is not going away and we intend to continue to hold Washington accountable.
The rhetoric about “special interest groups” ought to raise major red flags. It’s clearly meant to demean organizations who take seriously the right to life, protecting marriage, and religious liberty, by defining them as somehow beneath economic issue and motivated by something less pure. But first, that distinction is utterly arbitrary. All organizations involved in “influencing politics and policy on the federal level” (to use GOProud’s self-description) on anything – tax cuts, defense spending, health care, Israel, guns, abortion, marriage, environmental regulations, education, you name it – have an “interest” of some sort, and can just as easily be defined as a “special interest group.” Guess what, GOProud? That means you, too.
Second, labeling something a “special interest” is an old insult that dates all the way back to the writings of the early progressives. It’s meant to suggest that a position is motivated not by political principles or by a desire for the good of the country, but by either selfishness or devotion to something other than the country. Obviously, this isn’t true, for reasons I’ve explained before (and linked above). Disagreeing with GOProud on something doesn’t automatically make our motives impure (nor does it mean their motives are automatically on the level).
And just as obviously, it’s not how allies allegedly committed to the same goals treat each other in a healthy coalition. I’ve long been suspicious of GOProud’s true aims and their value to the Right – and this latest arrogant, dishonest attack on those of us who fully and consistently follow the principles of the American Founding only hurts their credibility further.