Sen. Patrick on the Tea Party and social conservatism
Sun January 30, 2011 10:39 am

Last week, having read Wayne Slater’s commentary in the Dallas Morning News that the governor’s emergency issue were Tea Party issues, I questioned the inclusion of the sonogram bill as a Tea Party issue. The Tea Party has thrived due to its advocacy of an aggressive fiscal conservatism and has largely stayed away from social conservatism–wisely so, in my opinion.

My discussion of the subject led Senator Dan Patrick to e-mail his thoughts:

As the author and originator of the sonogram bill in the Senate the past two sessions, and as Chairman of the Tea Party caucus, I feel well positioned to comment on your post. You write that there is a behind the scenes fight between Tea Party individuals and social conservative Republicans. I don’t know where you got that information, but I’m not aware of any major fight between the two groups.  The only people suggesting there is a fight would be those, not in either group, trying to stir up a story where none exists.

The Tea Party groups I have met with are focused primarily on non-social issues. The agendas they have presented to us focus on fiscal, border, free market, and Constitutional issues. That is not a problem for me or others who also support the social agenda.  I, like most social conservatives, share the Tea Party agenda. Social conservatives are glad the Tea Party is focused on those issues and in the fight for smaller government, lower taxes, and free market values.  

And just as many social conservatives support fiscal issues, there are many individuals in the Tea Party movement who are also social conservatives. It’s just not one of the major goals of the Tea Party as a group. They support those causes as individuals.  There is no conflict. I would argue we now have two armies of conservatives.  There is now a well organized army of fiscal conservatives, the Tea Party groups, just as there has been a well organized army of social conservatives fighting for their issues over the years. Having two armies waging a two front war for both fiscal and social issues only makes conservatives stronger in Texas.  There is no behind the scenes fight.

 * * * *

This is the particular language from my previous post to which Senator Patrick is responding: “Since when did ‘anti-abortion legislation’ become a “Tea Party issue? In the internecine wars that afflict the Republican party, the social conservatives are making a big push to get the tea parties to embrace their objectives. In many respects, this fight is more important than the ongoing battles between the social conservatives and the mainstream conservatives. The Tea Party has thrived because it has stuck to fiscal issues, which address the major concern in American politics today. If they allow themselves to be co-opted by the social conservatives, they are going to lose a lot of their appeal. This is a huge, behind-the-scenes fight that is going on inside the GOP, and the party and the country will be a lot better off if the Tea Party does not succumb to the overtures of the social conservatives to take up religious and anti-libertarian causes.” [end of quote]

One need only to look at the speaker’s race to find efforts of the social conservatives to join their cause to the cause of the tea parties, which primarily addressed the ideological and partisan issues of whether Straus was a true conservative and a loyal Republican. Part of the social conservatives’ campaign against Straus was that he was not pro-life.  I’m not going to re-litigate that issue. I will simply note that these efforts were all over the Web for anyone to see. While Senator Patrick is certainly entitled to comment on my observations, as is any other reader, I believe that the question I posed in the previous post (“Is the sonogram bill a tea party issue?”) is a valid one. Indeed, Senator Patrick agrees with my view that it is not a tea party issue. Nor do I take issue with his observation that “there are many individuals in the tea party movement who are also social conservatives.” Where I think we part company is that I believe that the social conservatives are actively trying to co-opt the tea party into adopting their views, and to the extent that the social conservatives are successful, I believe that will diminish the strength of the message of the tea parties, while he thinks it will enhance it.

Note to readers: This discussion continues in the comments. I recommend reading the comments of Norm Wigington and Felicia Cravens for the view that members of the Tea Party are indeed concerned about the social conservatives representing a potential dilution of the Tea Party message.

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