Any doubt about the relative influence of social conservatives and theocons in the Tea Party movement vs. more libertarian-minded folks should be diminished by the dueling letters sent by two different groups of Tea Party leaders to members of Congress.
The first letter was sent by gay conservative group GOProud and 17 leaders of Tea Party groups and it urged legislators to keep their focus on budget and economic issues rather than on social issues like abortion and gay rights. Said one of the signatories:
“When they were out in the Boston Harbor, they weren’t arguing about who was gay or who was having an abortion,” said Ralph King, a letter signatory who is a Tea Party Patriots national leadership council member, as well as an Ohio co-coordinator.
But now another group of Tea Party activists, much larger than the first, sent their own letter disputing that advice and urging Congress to go after social issues along with budgetary and economic ones.
The letter is signed by more than 150 tea party activists from around the country, and urges Congress to pursue an agenda that includes defunding the health care bill, cutting spending, eliminating government subsidies to groups like Planned Parenthood, cracking down on illegal immigration and cutting taxes.
There are genuine libertarian-minded folks in the Tea Party movement. But it’s become increasingly clear that the religious right has not only jumped on the bandwagon, they’re now driving it.