With all the talk about the tea party eclipsing social conservatives as the most important grassroots base in conservative politics, mainstream news outlets are finally picking up on the continued strength of the religious right. As the NY Times reported this weekend from Iowa, “a resurgent social conservative movement is shaping the first stage of the presidential nominating contest.” If you are planning on closely following the 2012 race, keep an eye on new organizations like Ralph Reed’s Faith & Freedom Coalition.
I never saw a real disconnect between the tea party and the social conservative movement. Folks like Rep. Michele Bachmann and Sen. Jim DeMint, both national tea party leaders, have been influential voices in our movement for a long time and have not waivered on values issues while embracing the Tea Party’s message. The tea party is packed with veterans of Christian conservative activism.
Social conservatives have always been anti-tax, fiscal conservatives and it is natural for us to join up and even lead the tea party. The Public Religion Research Institute reported that, “nearly half of tea party movement supporters also identify with the Christian conservative movement.” Further substantiating my claim, the survey found that those who identify with the Tea Party “are mostly social conservatives, not libertarians on social issues. Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases.”
The same presidential candidates who receive strong tea party support will undoubtedly be socially conservative. Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, Haley Barbour, Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney, along with a popular New Jersey governor who continues to say he will not run although he tops many polls, are pro-life. Bachmann, who has the potential to be a leading GOP presidential contender, rightly proclaimed to a crowd of social conservatives in Iowa that, “We’ve been told that we need a truce on social issues. I highly disagree with that. Social conservatism is fiscal conservatism.”
Question our influence all you want. The social conservative movement is stronger and more mainstream than ever before.