Social Issues Rise In Tea Party Politics

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin.

Jim Burroway

September 15th, 2010

Dick Armey

Dick Armey, speaking at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast on Sept. 13. "That fight (on social issues) will be had."

Last weekend, Dick Armey, Director of FreedomWorks which is the political organization which organized the Tea Party movement nationwide as a disguised “astroturf” campaign of seemingly spontaneous grass-roots organizations, commented at a breakfast organized by the Christian Science Monitor that once their planned takeover of Congress is complete, the Tea Party will switch from economic issues to social issues. Armey rejected the idea that there would be a truce on social issues, saying “these are issues of the heart.”

While he claimed that the Tea Party’s first priority is economic issues, Armey admitted that social issues, which the Tea Party has been studiously silent on (except when some of them go off script), will also be part of their agenda. “”People are not going to turn their hearts and minds away from things that they have so heartfelt,” he said, and he cited abortion as only “one a little example.”

And that is why the insurgency of the Tea Party should concern us all. Yesterday, Tea Party-backed Christine O’Donnell won the GOP primary for U.S. Senate in Delaware. In the early 1990’s, she was the founder and leader of a group called the Savior’s Alliance for Lifting the Truth (SALT), which hired Wade Richards as their ex-gay spokesman. He later abandoned the ex-gay movement while coming out in an article in The Advocate in 2000. In 1996, she launched a campaign against masturbation on MTV.

Delaware Tea Party nominee for U.S. Senate Christine O'Donnell

O’Donnell, who was once the press secretary for “Concerned Women for America,” believes in Creationism over evolution, and is against admitting women to military academies. “It’s an honor to be a lady, she wrote.  “That’s a beautiful part of womanhood is to be ladylike. ” She claimed that West Point “has had to lower their standards … in order for men and women to compete.” By lowering standards, she added, “we have reduced the effectiveness of our military.” One can very easily hear echoes of anti-gay talking points in the current debate over repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in those remarks.

Tea party leaders have been eager to paint the so-called “spontaneous” movement as being strictly concerned with economic issues. But as the movement pushes the GOP further to the right on economic issues, it will have the effect of pushing it harder to the right on social issues as well, and that will provoke many difficult challenges for the gay community should the Tea Party capture a significant block of seats in Congress. To pretend that the Tea Party’s only interest is in economic issues is, as Dick Armey points out in so many words, naive. That idea rests on the fictional belief that Tea Party members have checked their anti-gay animus at the door. They haven’t. They’ve just hidden it in their closets for the time being.


September 15th, 2010

I’ve long suspected that the Tea Party’s supposed abandonment of social issues was all a ruse, kind of like the religious right “stealth candidates” who gradually took over the GOP in the 80s and 90s by keeping their homophobia and opposition to abortion under wraps until they were elected.


September 15th, 2010

The Tea Partiers are the Brown Shirts of contemporary America. Anyone who thinks that, if they ever gain power in this country, they will act differently than every other fascist group has acted in modern history is delusional.

Chris McCoy

September 15th, 2010

I can’t stress enough. These are not our allies.

The present economic worries and immigration issues are a convenient smokescreen.


September 15th, 2010

That’s obvious. Look at their gatherings.

It’s a bunch of rednecks– most of them elderly– who are looking to feel important by perceiving themselves as agents of change.


September 15th, 2010

Never bought their line about social issues or racism—I recognized the Teabaggers for what they are. The same cast of crazies that used to bill themselves as the “Moral Majority” back in the 80’s. New branding same garbage.


September 15th, 2010

Not at all a surprise. The “Tea Party” is still the Republican Party. A rose by any other name still stinks. And yet gay people still vote for them, stunningly. Didn’t Bush try to sell people this load of crap in 2000? I believe it was called “compassionate conservatism”.


September 15th, 2010

Shhhh, Jim, don’t tell Timothy about this. He seems convinced that the Teabaggers will keep their personal animus toward gay people out of the public sphere.


September 15th, 2010

I think we can look forward to a few Tea Party candidates saying some ridiculously stupid things about homosexuality in the US Congress in the months after November. We need some brazen stupidity in the public ear to remind everyone what it sounds like.


September 15th, 2010

Not to go all Godwin on this story, but as a student of German history I can tell you that Hitler didn’t gain power because of his hatred of Jews. His antiSemitism took a backseat to his screeds about “getting back to basics”, taking back the power of government, returning Germany’s place of pride and power, attacking the “liberal elite” and “intellectuals” and the Polish (the German equivalent at the time of Mexicans in this country). His rabid anti-Semitism became much more apparent as a priority once he had already seized power by playing these other cards.

All of this should sound FRIGHTENINGLY familiar to anyone who knows history and is paying attention to current events.

Timothy Kincaid

September 15th, 2010


I’d recommend reading what I actually write not what you imagine that I think.


September 15th, 2010


Please don’t do the Hitler thing. I’ve spent the past two years furious at the Teabaggers when they pull that; it’s just as disrespectful when our side does it.


September 15th, 2010


I don’t think it’s disrespectful at all to point out the similarities between the Teabaggers and events that gave power to Hitler. Not the same thing at all as when someone calls president Obama a Nazi. There are a great many similarities: there are also many differences. And TZ hasn’t actually called anyone a Nazi, which is all that they do.

I think the only surprise here is that should be considered news to anyone.

Ben Mathis

September 15th, 2010

Odd, Timothy, like Zeke I seem to recall you stumping for the tea party and their talking heads as well.

Timothy Kincaid

September 15th, 2010


Everything is still right here on BTB. Feel free to go back and read it again.


September 15th, 2010

Stephen, Zeke didn’t call the Tea Party Nazis, you’re right. But he implied it in the same way Beck does with Obama. “I’m not saying he’s a Nazi, but…”. The fact that the Tea Party is made up of disaffected “common folk” angry at the liberal elite puts them in the same league as many many other political movements. Some good, some bad. Those are very superficial comparisons. You know, like how commentators on Fox always do. And I think it’s incredibly disrespectful to people who were gassed and burned alive to call anyone a Nazi who is not an actual Nazi.


September 15th, 2010

“Vote Democrat! We’re not Republicans!”

Really, is that the only slogan that the Democrats have left? Is it any wonder that many progressives are demoralized to the point that it doesn’t matter any more?

I know I’ll be voting for a single Democrat in November. Other than that, it’ll be straight party-line Green. It’s really a shame that in Colorado none of the progressives made it past the primary, despite, for example, Andrew Romanov’s nearly 3-1 lead over Bennet in the caucus. Because of this betrayal of the progressive base, Colorado may find itself with a Tea Party Governor and US Senator.

Emily K

September 15th, 2010

Christine O’Donnell – Teabagger darling from DE who just won the primary – has some choice words for gays.


September 15th, 2010

Congratulations are in order for future senator Chris Coons. Let’s hope that O’Donnell loses by more than 20%.


September 16th, 2010

I have written a response to this “article.”


September 16th, 2010

Pardon me the actual response is here.

The comment above is the wrong address obviously.

Bill Perdue

September 16th, 2010

The Teabaggers are right centrists moving right. They’ll inevitably pull the Democrats and Republicans even further right.

Both parties are bankrupt, and not just on matters of LGBT rights.

The Democrats are now the party of war (four of them from Palestine to Pakistan) and blood for oil. They’ve replaced Republicans as union busters, promoters of draconian cuts in social services cuts, deregulators, enablers of environmental disasters and the party that passes out trillions in handout/bailouts to the rich.

It absolutely doesn’t matter which of them is in power. And next fall if the Democrats get clobbered Obama and the Republicans will carry on, just as Clinton and the Republicans did over a decade ago.

The only solution is political independence.


September 16th, 2010

This is the very typical M.O. of the Conservative religious Right. Republicans have seen the excitement created by the thought that grass roots orgs can form large and effective voting blocks (hype) which may be called one thing, but then used in their favor.

This is stereotypical republican behavior. Election after election republicans like to tell us what the American People want, and pander to the small-minded religious types, THEN when elected they give tax breaks to the rich. Typical, normal conservative behavior, par for the course. Bait-and-switch.


September 16th, 2010

In this story, with the headline “More Tea Partiers not upset about the overturn of DOMA” ( a Tea Partier was quoted as saying that “on the issue [of gay marriage] itself, we have no stance, but any time a state’s rights or powers are encouraged over the federal government, it is a good thing.”

In this story, with the headline “The Republican Party has reached a turning point” ( it was stated that “Even the Tea Party’s narrow focus on economic issues has changed the national conversation.”

Finally, in this story which has the headline “Tea Partiers support overturn of DOMA” ( it was said that “the New York Times found that, for the most part, the Tea Party leaders supported the decision to overturn the federal Defense of Marriage Act as a victory for states’ rights, even if they don’t much like the consequences.”

These three stories seem to indicate a belief that the Tea Party would remain quiet on the issue of gay marriage, leave it as a states-right issue, and focus on economic issues.

It seems to me now, and it seemed to me then, unlikely that Tea Partiers would remain quiet about this issue once they had candidates in power.


September 16th, 2010


But AFTER elected, the “Tea Party” candidates will align and vote with the Republican Party, and while they are quiet for the time being about social issues, and especially Gay Rights, their internal demons will arise, and they will fight against our equality.

Mark my words, please.

Susan Marie Kovalins

September 20th, 2010

Thank God someone is on to them, and I have long believed that there is a STRONG ANTI GAY ELEMENT hiding within the Tea Party movement, stealthily advancing.

Priya Lynn

September 20th, 2010

Justsearching said “These three stories seem to indicate a belief that the Tea Party would remain quiet on the issue of gay marriage, leave it as a states-right issue, and focus on economic issues.”.

This poll says otherwise:

“The connection comes as a new University of Washington poll found that of those Americans who supported the Tea Party movement…Only 36 percent think gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to adopt children, and just 17 percent are in favor of same-sex marriage.”

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