Since the 1980s, the message from the Republican Party in the United States and the conservative movement in general was simple:
– limit the role of government in everyday life
– ease regulations on American businesses
– lower taxes across the board
– decrease federal spending on social programs
– keep a large, strong military
– ban abortions
– be patriotic at all times
This was a simple, easy to understand doctrine that drew many Americans into the Republican Party and helped put both Reagan and George H.W. Bush in the Presidency for 12 years combined.
In the late 90s and early part of the new century, social conservatism was added to the doctrine to help attract the large Christian communities of America. No gay marriage, no abortions, no stem cell research and defend mentions of God in all areas of our history and current government.
George W. Bush was able to garner a lot of support pushing social conservatism on top of the original conservative message.
Now we come to 2010 and a movement of citizens, political activists and a handful of civic leaders have formed the so called “Tea Party.” With the defeat of establishment candidates from Kentucky to Pennsylvania, this large group of frustrated Americas is making a big impact on the political landscape. While the Tea Party appears to be made up of mostly conservative leaning voices, their message is curiously void of any mention of social issues. At any Tea Party rally, you will see plenty of signs decrying the Wall Street and bank bailouts, or begging legislatures to step away from the idea of any new tax increases. They are worried about the national deficit and a few are irked by the federal government’s meek response to illegal immigration.
It’s what you don’t see that makes this movement unique. There are plenty of social conservatives in the Tea Party movement, but they have put down their anti-gay, anti-abortion signs in favor of anti-government interference signs. The social conservatives are being forced into the back seat of American politics as a new conservative movement takes to the forefront. This is more of a fiscal conservative movement and one that seeks practical solutions to huge looming problems.
Rand Paul is now the GOP candidate for Senate in Kentucky. Paul, son of Texas Congressman Ron Paul, is not social conservative at all and yet he won a Republican primary in a very red state. He made no mentions or social issues at all and if he is anything like his father, would not raise any objections to gay marriage or a woman’s right to an abortion.
The political calculus is changing in America. For years, it was good enough to combine the fiscal conservatism of a businessman with the moral fervor of a preacher to call yourself a Republican. Now, unless you have common sense solutions to huge national problems that don’t involve massive government interference, you are lucky to make it into a GOP primary at all.
Democrats are hoping the Tea Party helps rip apart the Conservative base. It might. However, it seems far more likely that it will create a new, larger and louder base with new principle to stand on.