In our last installment, Part II: Libertarians and the Tea Party, we mentioned how while the Tea Party movement often sounds like it has some strong libertarian principles, there is less than expected overlap between Tea Party and libertarian activists. The more committed and informed libertarians are quite turned off by the Tea Party. The main reason for their disgust seems to be the strong influence of religion on many Tea Party members, especially with regard to social issues, and that these positions support greater government intervention in our lives.
For instance, a Pew poll found that religious beliefs have a strong pull on the opinions of Tea Partiers on gay marriage and abortion.
Another survey found 47% of Tea Party members admit they are also members of the “Christian conservative” movement, and 81% of Tea Party members identify as Christian. However, like libertarians, the religious right remains skeptical about the Tea Party. In the same survey, only 23% of Christian conservatives also identified with the Tea Party. The Tea Party is not simply a relabeling of the religious right. In fact one recently heralded study puts evangelicals and Tea Partiers into separate GOP factions for the purposes of its analysis.
There’s not a complete overlap, but you can get a sense of the Tea Party’s tendencies from how a large segment of the movement approaches politics through religion. (Of course, when religion is the primary driver of your politics, rationality often takes a back seat). The polls concluded the Tea Party is much more religiously motivated/influenced than the general public, but not as extreme as some other segments of the conservative coalition. They may appear more extreme depending on what issue is being protested that day. For example, your more libertarian-leaning Tea Partiers won’t bother showing up for that “pro-life” rally.
So different issues produces disagreement among factions within the Tea Party. Where is the common thread that brings them all together? The Tea Party growth exploded in 2009. Is the activism motivated by racism? After all, they didn’t get off their couches until after the inauguration of President Obama. Stay tuned for Part IV.