Recently, several Tea Party groups have sparred publicly over 'social' issues. GOProud, a gay group "committed to a traditional conservative agenda that emphasizes limited government, individual liberty, free markets and a confident foreign policy", sent a letter to congressional GOP leaders:
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.As a Tea Partier (and Constitutionalist and Objectivist) I find nothing objectionable in this. Its a simple statement that the Tea Party is about getting the government out of our lives and a warning to Republicans not to hijack the Tea Party to support conservative intrusions into our lives. The Tea Party has always had a healthy dislike for social and big-government conservatives like Bush and McCain (who launched the Tea Party movement by supporting the bailouts).
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.
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.
Tea Party Nation (TPN) took exception and sent their own letter in response:
We, the undersigned, are leaders of mainstream Tea Party groups. We are the people that helped get conservatives elected on November 2. While we do not speak for this movement as a whole, we are a large cross section of this movement and we want to tell you what this movement wants.It starts out good enough with a call for repealing Obamacare and reducing spending (although the spending in Obamacare has not yet started), but then immediately goes offtrack into longstanding, and mainly non-Tea Party, conservative gripes:
First, we want Obamacare defunded. There is no compromise on this issue and it is not negotiable. We do not want Obamacare lite. We do not want it “tinkered” with. We want it repealed. We realize the chance of Obamacare being repealed before 2013 are slim, but it can be defunded. That is the next best thing.
Second, we want serious reductions in spending. A spending cut is not simply a reduction in the amount of the increase. It is a reduction in spending. America cannot afford Washington’s spending sprees any more.
The question is where to start. Here is the answer. Let’s start by eliminating waste, fraud and abuse from the budget. Billions of dollars are wasted through programs that are unneeded, unnecessary and exist only to benefit special interests. Let’s go through the budget line by line and eliminate these programs.
We in the Tea Party are ready to help on this one. We know you have staffs. We have thousands of volunteers who are prepared to rip the budget apart and help you. All you have to do is ask us.
The left will whine about every spending cut, coming up with some story about how horrible it will be. Americans are very charitable but cannot stand the thought of their tax dollars being wasted. This is the proverbial low hanging fruit.
Third, we must dismantle the liberal-political complex. Liberal groups such as Acorn and Planned Parenthood receive millions of dollars in federal monies every year. This must stop. Most of the members of this movement would probably describe themselves as pro-life. Regardless, abortion is a multibillion-dollar business. Why is the government paying Planned Parenthood anything, much less almost $1 billion from 2002-2009?
Fourth, if the debt ceiling is to be raised, this is the last time. Uncle Sam’s credit card must be cut up. America cannot afford Obama/Pelosi/Reid’s spending spree. We urge you to raise the debt ceiling only if a spending reduction plan is in place prior to that time. We do not want to see the ceiling raised in exchange for a promise to cut spending later. We Americans now regard those promises as credible as those emails we get telling us we have won the lottery.
Fifth, taxes must be reduced. The Bush tax cuts must be extended for everyone, made permanent and the burden the government places on small businesses must be drastically reduced so that small businesses can grow and start hiring unemployed Americans.
Sixth, there can be no amnesty. America has always welcomed immigrants. Legal immigrants. We want you to oppose the DREAM act and any other effort for amnesty. In 1986, President Reagan agreed to amnesty, in exchange for the promise the border would be secured. We got amnesty then and twenty-five years later, the border is still not secured. This time, we have to insist the border be secured and illegal aliens leave and then reapply like everyone else. We need to change our immigration laws and require that before specialized workers are brought in, there must be conclusive proof that no American is available to do that job. We also need to change our immigration policy so that the top criteria for someone immigrating to America is what they can do for America. The diversity immigration lottery must be eliminated.
Seventh, we want you to fight the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. The policy has worked well for the last fifteen years. There is no reason to change. While there are many ways to debate an issue, sometimes you can judge the validity of a proposal by who supports it. Various radical leftist groups such as Code Pink support the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. These groups have one goal. They want to weaken the United States Military. If these groups think this is a good idea, that is a pretty good indication, it is not.
We, the members of the mainstream Tea Party movement have a lot of expectations for you in this Congress. We realize the limitations you face. But we also realize the tools you have at your disposal. America is a conservative country. We expect conservative leadership from our country. The Republican Party had its head handed to it in 2006 and 2008 because it departed from its conservative base. Now is your chance to return to your roots and govern, as we the people want you to.
We are here with you, we are here supporting you and we have our eyes on you. Do not disappoint us.
- "Eliminate waste, fraud and abuse" - Who isn't for eliminating waste, fraud and abuse? Quite a controversial, revolutionary position! While the federal government is bailing out banks to the tune of $600 to 800 billion at a time, TPN targets a few hundreds of millions in waste?
- "Acorn and Planned Parenthood receive millions of dollars in federal monies every year" - Acorn deserves plenty of scorn for its role in pressuring banks to lend to swaths of unqualified borrowers, but it doesn't deserve any front billing alongside Obamacare or bailouts. Planned Parenthood, seriously? If TPN wanted to go after the 'liberal-political complex' they should have targetted public broadcasting.
- Raise the debt ceiling, but only if a spending reduction plan is in order - If the plan for spending reduction is cutting planned parenthood and eliminating waste, then nothing will change. Cutting taxes while leaving spending unchanged is standard, disasterous conservative thinking. It creates unsustainable deficits, inflation and only makes the ultimate bankruptcy more painful.
- No amnesty - I'm not a fan of amnesty, nor of closed borders. Being anti-immigrant is a cowardly response to having illegals on welfare and in the schools. The manly response is to open up legal immigration and at the same time privatize schools and eliminate welfare programs. Including immigration issues in their letter is more indicative of their conservative roots than Tea Party roots.
- Don't Ask, Don't Tell - In two years this is the first time I've heard of this policy mentioned in connection with the Tea Party. It is not a Tea Party issue.
- "We expect conservative leadership from our country. The Republican Party had its head handed to it in 2006 and 2008 because it departed from its conservative base." - Laughable. The Republican Party had its ass handed to it in 2008 because it was TRUE to its social conservative base and in conflict with the other freedom loving 'fiscal conservatives'. It was the small government voters, who at times support Republicans, that rejected Bush and McCain's policies. This entire TPN letter is completely consistent with big government, social conservative policies.
I'm proud to say that SoCalTRC also got it right in their own statement (pasted from an e-mail, also posted in Facebook):
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA TAX REVOLT COALITION DISAVOWS TEA PARTY NATION SOCIAL ISSUE STANCE!
This week, Judson Philips, founder of Tea Party Nation, a for-profit social network and convention organizer, announced on the Fox News Channel and to his membership that the Tea Party movement needs to abandon its “Fiscal Conservative-Only” identity and address social issues.
The Southern California Tax Revolt Coalition (SCTRC, Home of the San Diego Tea Party Patriots), strongly disagrees with this strategy. While we firmly believe that local Tea Party groups are best suited for directing the activism most suited to their regions, the co-founders of the SCTRC wish to go on the record that our group will focus solely in a fiscal-oriented policy that centers on lower taxes, sensible spending plans, and limited government.
“Our Tea Party started as a fiscally conservative movement, and will remain so under our stewardship,” said Sarah Bond, SCTRC Chief Executive Officer. “Social issues DIVIDE Americans. People have made up their hearts and minds on abortion, gay marriage, etc. We suspect that many of our compatriot Tea Party groups across the country hold this same position, and will continue to concentrate solely on a fiscally conservative
platform. Fiscal responsibility is a UNITING issue.”
During nearly two-years of conservative activism, SCTRC events have highlighted California ballot measures, informed Californians of their representatives’ voting records, pushed-back of government-expanding legislation, and is have brought citizens of all party affiliations and social stances together in grassroots engagement. It crosses party and social lines.
“As a Democrat who has been with this movement since its inception, I want note that the Tea Party is the place where Americans of all backgrounds, parties, social agendas and lifestyles intersect on the need for smaller, more efficient, responsible government,” said Leslie Eastman, Media Director. “I have appeared on the Fox Business Network as a guest with Mr. Phillips; I am a little disturbed that he has forgotten that social matters are wedges and distractions from today’s more important issues.”
SCTRC wants balanced budgets, smarter spending, shrinking deficits, support for the free market, less intrusive regulations, lower taxes and fees, and transparency. Judson Phillips represents himself, not the thousands of unique, independent local tea party groups all across this nation, including our local one.
The co-founders of the Southern California Tax Revolt Coalitions:
I agree broadly with the SoCalTRC distancing itself from TPN, but disagree somewhat on the reasoning. Unfortunately, this issue is clouded by imprecise terminology. For decades the intellectual and political establishment has offered us the false alternative of liberalism versus conservatism. These terms have ceased to be meaningful to freedom lovers and so we try to recapture the distinction between freedom and statism. We further subdivide liberalism and conservatism into 'fiscal' and 'social' branches, consigning individualists and pro-capitalists into the 'fiscal conservative' or (less frequently) 'social liberal' space. Meanwhile the remaining liberals advocate vast expropriation and economic controls and the remaining conservatives (the 'social conservatives') advocate spiritual controls such as bans on pornography, teaching creation 'science' in schools, and reintroducing religion into courtrooms, government buildings and public spaces.
The Tea Party movement has rightly rejected the false distinction between liberalism and conservatism, between Democrats and Republicans, at least in a negative way. The movement rejects BOTH parties policies. It rejects the gargantuan welfare state, state controlled media, and anti-Americanism of the liberals and it rejects the wire-tapping, bailing-out, TSA crotch groping conservatives. What the Tea Party is for is freedom, freedom to produce and keep our wealth, freedom to speak, freedom to contract, freedom to opt-out, all without government interference. The Tea Party is about total freedom. More accurate descriptions of Tea Partiers than 'conservative' include pro-capitalist, Constitutionalist or Jeffersonian.
Tea Party groups should fight the introduction of 'social' issues into the movement, they should reject the 'social conservative' desire to impose government controls in the spiritual/moral realm. 'Social conservatism' is incompatible with limited government, because it proposes to expand the role of the government in regulating who we can marry (a voluntary contract between adults), what has to be taught in schools, what religious symbols we have to support in our tax funded public buildings, etc.
Lastly it should be pointed out that defenders of freedom and individual rights, Thomas Jefferson for example, did not and do not avoid the moral component of the political discussion. 'Social conservatives' do not have a monopoly on morality. It is after all a moral position to say that every man and woman is an individual, has a right to the product of their labors and deserves to pursue their own happiness without physical interference. (This is the morality of rational self-interest that Rand defends in Atlas Shrugged, The Virtue of Selfishness, and Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal.)