In the August 16 version of the New York Times there was an article entitled, Crashing the Tea Party, by David Campbell and Robert Putman that chronicled the shrinking influence of the Tea Party Movement in America. While the article contained a liberal bias that is typical of articles that appear in the New York Times, the authors did rightly point out that more Americans have a negative opinion of the Tea Party Movement than they did in 2010. According to the authors, what started out as a independent populist movement has morphed into largely an extension of the anachronistic Republican Moral Majority that since the 1980’s has occupied center stage in the American Zeitgeist. Apparently the Teavangelicals have won more influence than the Tea-libertarians. According to these writers, with that victory, the movement is losing credibility with independent Americans who are also increasingly dissatisfied with the intrusion of religion into politics. Many of us in the Restore America Movement have been warning about the interference from religious conservatives while presenting alternative common sense conservative plans.
Congressman Ron Paul is among those that have continued to talk about populist economic concerns that appeal to both liberals and conservatives. Paul has been adamant about the need to deconstruct excesses in government that affect stakeholders on both sides of the traditional partisan divide. He is for dramatic reductions in the public welfare and warfare behemoths and also for the elimination of all corporate welfare and government subsidies. He is against all government bailouts of business and banking. His signature issue is the abolishment of the Federal Reserve Bank, which is an entity that Paul believes is serving big banking and big business interests at the expense of regular Americans.
As importantly, while Paul is a private social conservative, he does not believe in inserting religion into politics or in wearing his own values on his sleeve. In fact, Paul is opposed to supremacist evangelism, especially from government, a position he elucidated strongly during the recent Presidential debate in Iowa, and a position that has him at odds with many in the Evangelical Conservative community who believe religion should be a public matter. Independent Americans tend to support the right of free expression of religion but they are uncomfortable with overt religious evangelism in public. There is also a stylistic religious divide between Northern and Southern Cultural Conservatives.
There are competing trends in the United States that cannot be ignored. The country is getting more conservative economically but more liberal spiritually. If the Tea Party Movement is to survive and thrive it will need to relocate itself within the populist center of America, an ideological home that is increasingly stingy economically and increasingly inclusive spiritually. Ron Paul’s positions lead us in the right direction.