Is the Tea Party movement good for gays?
March 13th, 2010
The gay community tends not to fare well when angry conservative populist movements gain influence; the “common man” tends not to hold the interests of minorities to heart.
So many gay individuals and organizations have viewed the Tea Party movement with suspicion and concern. This reaction seemed to be confirmed by social conservatives pointing to the movement and offering praise. However, the Tea Party movement may prove to be a tremendous boon for the community.
There are several articles today about the movement from several different sources and they all seem to be saying the same thing: not only are the Tea Partiers not social conservatives, they want nothing to do with them.
Patrik Jonsson, writing for the Christian Science Monitor, starts his article this way
Emergence of the grass-roots “tea party” movement as a major force on the American political right is having a quiet but fundamental effect on the Republican tribe: Social conservatives have been voted off the island.
In recent years, fiscal conservatives seem to have taken a back seat to social conservatives in the Republican Party. President Bush, with his drunken sailor spending and moralizing piety was about as far from the fiscal conservative wing as you could get.
The Party had gambled that “the people” weren’t interested in esoteric things like the national debt or a balanced budget and pandered instead to biases against gay marriages and pregnant women. Not that Republicans actually did anything on social conservative issues, but by targeting a voter base that cared little about fiscal responsibility, they managed to answer to no one.
But the Tea Party movement appears to be a backlash, as much against the Republican Party that they feel has betrayed them as against President Obama and the Democrats. And in their efforts to change the focus of the Party, they are refusing to allow social issues to intrude. (New York Times)
Tea Party leaders argue that the country can ill afford the discussion about social issues when it is passing on enormous debts to future generations. But the focus is also strategic: leaders think they can attract independent voters if they stay away from divisive issues.
“We should be creating the biggest tent possible around the economic conservative issue,” said Ryan Hecker, the organizer behind the Contract From America. “I think social issues may matter to particular individuals, but at the end of the day, the movement should be agnostic about it. This is a movement that rose largely because of the Republican Party failing to deliver on being representative of the economic conservative ideology. To include social issues would be beside the point.”
And it appears that the jettisoning of the social conservatives is not merely cosmetic. “Family values” leaders are feeling the bite and are not happy with being booted from the drive’s seat (Politico).
“There’s a libertarian streak in the tea party movement that concerns me as a cultural conservative,” said Bryan Fischer, director of Issue Analysis for Government and Public Policy at the American Family Association. “The tea party movement needs to insist that candidates believe in the sanctity of life and the sanctity of marriage.”
“As far as I can tell [the tea party movement] has a politics that’s irreligious. I can’t see how some of my fellow conservatives identify with it,” said Richard Cizik, who broke with a major evangelical group over his support for government action on climate change, but who remains largely in line with the Christian right on social issues. “The younger Evangelicals who I interact with are largely turned off by the tea party movement — by the incivility, the name-calling, the pathos of politics.”
But what impact will this have on our community? That depends, of course, on whether the movement can maintain its anger and its mission.
If they are effective and are seen as a political force, they could change what it means to be a Republican. If they want to draw in young people worried about their ability to pay a massive and ever increasing public debt, they may strong-arm the Party to drop issues such as abortion and gay marriage from the Party Platform. They may even insist on advancing and supporting gay candidates if they are perceived to be the best on fiscal issues.
It is possible that this movement of “common folk” – which includes more than a few that are complete wackadoodles: birthers, racists, and conspiracy theorists – could ultimately place our nation in a position in which there is one party that supports our rights (at least in theory) and another that “has no opinion” on the matter.
Time will tell us whether this movement – one our community mostly mocks and somewhat fears – will bring about a change in public consciousness on social issues, or whether they will just be another footnote in the history of our nation’s advancement.