Tea parties: scalding or soothing evangelicals?

Palin addresses the Tea Party

Either the religious right is cozying up to the "tea party" movement or it fears it. Depending which story you read, that is. The first article to hit our mailboxes this morning was the Los Angeles Times. "Social conservatives put religious twist on 'tea party' message" says that activists are working together based on a shared concern over growing government. Reporter Kathleen Hennessey begins her article by characterizing the movement using theater terminology:

For most of a year, the small-government advocates of the "tea party" movement have stolen the spotlight from the Republican Party's veteran performers: the Christian conservatives who have long driven voters to the polls for the GOP.

Now the veterans are stealing the tea partyers lines.

In news releases, mission statements and interviews, prominent social conservatives increasingly are using the small-government rhetoric popular with the tea party activists and long used by economic conservatives -- but with a religious bent.

The rhetorical "shift" is evidence of how potent the growth of government is as a galvanizing issue on the right, she says. Now, I know that during the previous administration, social conservatives adopted a lot of the "compassionate conservatism" talk and its attendant increase in the size and scope of government but the article probably should have mentioned that this supposedly new rhetoric sounds very similar to what social conservatives have said during the 1980s and 1990s, at least.

In fact, as I was reading this article I kept thinking of how Grover Norquist has always said how the right should bill itself: The Leave Us Alone Coalition. And a few paragraphs into the article, we get this quote:

"The reason why social conservatives and economic conservatives can play well together . . . is the guy who wants to go to church all day just wants to be left alone. So does the guy who wants to play with his gun all day, and the guy who wants to make money all day," said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform. "They don't agree on how to spend their time, but they do agree on their central issue: They want to be left alone."

Again, this is not a new formation. Norquist was talking about it at least 10 years ago.

Anyway, the piece shows how social conservatives are still active and effective (see: fight over federal funding of abortion in the health care bill) but also notes that social issues seem to be taking a back seat to constitutional principles and government spending.

Okay, now let's go over to Politico where we learn that "Tea parties stir evangelicals' fears." It kind of does the same thing that the Times did -- it throws out a possible narrative and then just includes lots of quotes from people who are trying to push that narrative. It just turns out that they happened to pick competing narratives.

Or maybe it just indicates some belated but necessary attempts by the media to get a handle on what's driving the change in political moods. One of my favorite things about the competing narratives, by the way, is that they use the same picture for both stories!

Please respect our Commenting Policy