Delaware GOP Senate nominee Christine O’Donnell this weekend attended the annual conservative Values Voters summit in Washington, DC. There, she emphasized that although she is backed by the Tea Party, she is also a politician who “toiled for years in the values movement,” alluding to her longtime work as a Christian activist.
What is the Tea Party? Is it “a recession-era version of the religious right?” Is it something else? And if the Tea Party is not a religious movement, why is it raising up candidates like O’Donnell who has a strong background of religious activism?
The Tea Party stands as a grass roots conduit channeling frustration on behalf of Americans that see Uncle Sam growing while the American Dream simultaneously shrinks. This anti-big government, anti-higher taxes movement also serves as an answer to Republican prayers. Notwithstanding, it would be difficult to argue that within the Tea Party lies embedded any distinguishing marker adhering to a family values or faith imperative.
From its inception until today, Tea Party activists defer from addressing any so called family values or cultural wedge issues. The standard modus operandi, as it pertains to priorities, focuses on the size of government, states’ rights and corresponding rates of taxation. While the cross pollination of various segments of the conservative electorate was inevitable, the separation of church and Tea Party continues to place the Republican Party in a difficult posture of reconciling what at times may be distinct agendas.
For that matter, the Tea Party, although formidable in both size and influence as made evident in recent primary elections, represent the secular wing of the GOP. For if the Tea Party movement does find Jesus or if they experience a Road to Damascus moment, then America will see a grass roots movement on steroids. The problem may not lie in the faith of the Tea Party movement but rather in its lack of multi-ethnic representation.
Accordingly, people of color who do adhere to a strong faith narrative and stand equally concerned as it pertains to the size of government seem to demonstrate an equal amount of consternation regarding the Tea Party. The Tea Party still suffers from the same marketing and demographical dissonance as the Republican Party; too male, too old and too white.
While the Tea Party may significantly shift the Republican Party to the right it is yet to be determined if the nation is willing to follow suit. For the Tea Party to become mainstream it will require a faith and family values component and an intentional diversification process. For at the end of the day a party without chips and salsa is no party at all.