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Republicans Urged To Avoid Social Issues

Incoming Republicans in the House and Senate are being told to concentrate on economic freedom and limited government and ignore the social issues that will only serve to divide the coalition that brought you to power:

A gay conservative group and some Tea Party leaders are campaigning to keep social issues off the Republican agenda.

In a letter to be released Monday, the group GOProud and leaders from groups like the Tea Party Patriots and the New American Patriots, will urge Republicans in the House and Senate to keep their focus on shrinking the government.

“On behalf of limited-government conservatives everywhere, we write to urge you and your colleagues in Washington to put forward a legislative agenda in the next Congress that reflects the principles of the Tea Party movement,” they write to presumptive House Speaker John Boehner and Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell in an advance copy provided to POLITICO. “This election was not a mandate for the Republican Party, nor was it a mandate to act on any social issue.”

The letter’s signatories range from GOProud’s co-founder and Chairman Christopher Barron — a member of a group encouraging Dick Cheney to run for president — to Tea Party leaders with no particular interest in the gay rights movement.

As of Sunday evening, the letter had 17 signatories. They include tea party organizers, conservative activists and media personalities from across the country, including radio host Tammy Bruce, bloggers Bruce Carroll, Dan Blatt and Doug Welch, and various local coordinators for the Tea Party Patriots and other tea party groups.

“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.

King said he signed onto the letter because GOProud seemed to be genuine in pushing for fiscal conservatism and limited government.

“Am I going to be the best man at a same sex-marriage wedding? That’s not something I necessarily believe in,” said King. “I look at myself as pretty socially conservative. But that’s not what we push through the Tea Party Patriots.”

From the letter:

Poll after poll confirms that the Tea Party’s laser focus on issues of economic freedom and limited government resonated with the American people on Election Day. The Tea Party movement galvanized around a desire to return to constitutional government and against excessive spending, taxation and government intrusion into the lives of the American people.

The Tea Party movement is a non-partisan movement, focused on issues of economicfreedom and limited government, and a movement that will be as vigilant with a Republican-controlled Congress as we were with a Democratic-controlled Congress.

This election was not a mandate for the Republican Party, nor was it a mandate to act on any social issue, nor should it be interpreted as a political blank check.

Already, there are Washington insiders and special interest groups that hope to co-opt the Tea Party’s message and use it to push their own agenda – particularly as it relates to social issues. We are disappointed but not surprised by this development. We recognize the importance of values but believe strongly that those values should be taught by families and our houses of worship and not legislated from Washington, D.C.

This message is similar to the comments Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels made over the summer where he called for a “truce” on social issues, and stands in contrast to Senator Jim DeMint’s recent claim that fiscal conservatism and social conservatism are inextricably linked. Daniels message, of course, was not well-received by many social conservatives. Anti-abortion groups were especially vehement in denouncing it, as was former Governor Mike Huckabee and Daniels’ fellow Hoosier Congressman Mike Pence.

Nonetheless, it is a welcome sentiment notwithstanding the fact that the underlying tensions between the Tea Party’s libertarian and social conservative wings still remain:

Polling has shown that Tea Party members hold socially conservative views, but don’t consider issues like abortion a top priority. But social conservative grassroots played a key role in a handful of election campaigns, including the ouster of three pro-gay marriage Iowa judges. Exit polls last week also suggested that some gay voters had shifted toward Republican ranks, with about a third of self-identified gays backing Republican House candidates.

Barron and the tea party organizers behind the letter hope to get other tea party groups to sign on after the formal unveiling Monday.

“We’re not talking about pushing social conservatives out of the tea party movement. Those people aren’t only welcome but they’re a critical part of this movement.” said Barron.

But ideas like the one Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) floated about banning gay teachers run counter to the tea party ethos, Barron argues. “How is that limited government?” he said.

The alliance underscores many of the tensions and divisions in the freewheeling, leaderless tea party movement. While GOProud is ambivalent on the issue of same-sex marriage, it does openly advocate the repeal of the military’s”Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy – something some of the letter’s tea party signatories disagreed strongly with.

Tea Party Patriots Maine coordinator Andrew Ian Dodge said that pushing DADT repeal would be a distraction from fiscal issues like deregulation and lowering taxes and he hopes that the letter also reminds GOProud of this fact.

“It is a little bit of a distraction,” said Dodge about the possible repeal of DADT. “Why divide our forces?”

And therein lies the problem, I think. At some point, the social issues that everyone is ignoring will have to be dealt with, whether it’s DADT, same-sex marriage, or the temptation that some on the right have to use the power of the state to enforce their vision of personal morality on the rest of us. If the Tea Party wants to remain true to its limited government principles, then it strikes me that the default position would be less government and more personal freedom, whether the issue being dealt with involves economics or so-called “social issues.” To turn Jim DeMint’s words around, you can’t be in favor of activist government on “social issues” while at the same time claiming you are for limited government everywhere else. The truce being called for here is a good idea, but at some point this unnatural split in the GOP’s view on freedom will have to be reconciled.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Dave Schuler says:

    That was precisely the tactic employed by the Tea Parties to avoid fracture within their ranks and it was pretty successful.

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  2. Dave,

    Yea it was, and I think it will continue to work for at least a while. Maybe even until the 2012 primaries. At some point, though, the inherent tensions between these two wings of the party/movement are going to come to the fore again, I think.

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  3. TG Chicago says:

    This is a problem for Republicans, but still perhaps not the most pressing one. The “unnatural split in the GOP” that must be even more urgently addressed is the desire to be deficit hawks while keeping entitlements to seniors and military spending off the table.

    Honestly, I could see this “should we be social cons?” thing as a smokescreen. If they announce that they’re going to play at being “deficit hawks” instead of “social cons” then the media will say “Boy, they sure are being serious about this!” and will give them a pass on actually doing anything to fix the deficit.

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  4. Tano says:

    “Nonetheless, it is a welcome sentiment notwithstanding the fact that the underlying tensions between the Tea Party’s libertarian and social conservative wings still remain:”

    Thats a strange way of putting it. Rather than a “welcome sentiment notwithstanding…” it is simply a restatement of the position held by one of the factions – the libertarian wing.
    If you think the socons are just going to decide to do nothing with the fact that the GOP has the House, you are smokin’ the funny stuff.

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  5. ponce says:

    I don’t see the fiscal conservatives offering up anything to their masters the crazy conservatives to leave social issues off the table for a while.

    Not much of a deal.

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  6. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Elections have consequences. Democrats win, they get to push social policies. Republicans win, and according to your way of thinking, they are not supposed to? We won, to quote Obama.

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  7. Herb says:

    “the temptation that some on the right have to use the power of the state to enforce their vision of personal morality on the rest of us. ”

    Now that you mention it, I think this temptation –which both left and right have in abundance– is one of the main impediments to social consensus. It seems to me that there’s vast agreement on both sides that morality should be legislated. Thus the argument becomes which moral vision takes precedence.

    Sooner or later someone is going to have to say “Enough!” Unfortunately, I suspect that someone is going to be a libertarian…which is sad because for that “Enough!” to be truly heard, it needs to come from the middle.

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  8. Herb says:

    Case in point:

    “Democrats win, they get to push social policies. Republicans win, and according to your way of thinking, they are not supposed to?”

    The principle: Whoever wins the elections gets to try and enforce their morality on the rest of us.

    I have a problem with that.

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  9. george says:

    “The principle: Whoever wins the elections gets to try and enforce their morality on the rest of us.”

    One of the guiding principles of big government is strict control of people’s day to day lives. Both social conservatives and social liberals are for big government, they just want to direct the big gov’t. But at least the liberals are honest about wanting it … social conservative talk about wanting small gov’t, and then go on to demand that gov’t get involved in people’s private lives.

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  10. john says:

    ” the temptation that some on the right have to use the power of the state to enforce their vision of personal morality on the rest of us.”

    I despise that phrase because of the tacit implication that those on the left do not have any desire to impose their morality on the rest of us.

    To address two other issues you mentioned:
    Limited government arguments can be used to argue for a repeal of DADT. The legislative branch had no business becoming involved with an executive branch policy. DADT should be repealed, word for word, giving the power to determine who can serve back where it belongs, in the hands of those running the military. Let the executive branch deal with the commission and it’s findings; Congress should stay out of it. I think this would be a brilliant political move by the GOP. Repealing it shows that the Democrats have only been paying lip-service to it, gaining more support from gay voters (tho I do hate identity politics, I kind of need it here), and most of the conservative Christians should be able to be mollified by the limited government/separation of powers argument.

    Regarding same-sex marriage, most (well, many anyways) people are opposed to same-sex marriages being granted legal status by the courts, over-riding the will of the people, and not necessarily same-sex marriage per se. For it to gain acceptance, it needs to be by popular decision, because it is a major social change. The GOP would be dumb to take this up in the next Congress, and should let the states come around to it (or not, as the case may be). It is gaining acceptance, tho obviously more slowly than some would like.

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  11. Drew says:

    First, I don’t give a rats arse who’s sleeping with whom, or who is praying or not, etc..

    Second, as a small government Republican, I can’t think of better music to my ears than staying away from the social issues.

    Third, just as a matter of prioroties, the nation’s current primary problems are economic, not social.

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  12. ponce says:

    “as a small government Republican”

    Why on Earth would anyone who’s for small government vote Republican?

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  13. Drew says:

    ponce -

    You can’t just throw out a line like that and not be thought a clown. The entire history of regulation – a favorite of the Democrats – and regulatory capture, benefits large business at the expense of smll business. And then we get to taxation………….

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  14. tom p says:

    “The entire history of regulation – a favorite of the Democrats – and regulatory capture, benefits large business at the expense of smll business.”

    Drew, are you actually trying to say the Dems are the party of big business?

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  15. Drew says:

    tommy p -

    Yes. (Although I differentiate establishment Republicans from Conservatives/Libertarians).

    But Tom, the notion that the Democrats are the party of anything but Big Business, or Big Labor or Big Anything is preposterous on its face.

    Who bailed out GM and handed Big Labor unwarranted spoils? Obama.

    Who received the most campaign money from Wall Street? Obama.

    Who has been unabashedly pro-regulatory for years – and who does that favor: big or small? The Democrats.

    I could go on and on.

    Here’s one: and I’ll forewarn you, its a sucker punch. So go do your homework; I don’t want to have you publicly humiliate yourself. Who does the current Dodd-Frank legislation favor? Big money, or small money? Go think about it.

    I’ve got dozens of examples.

    Regulatory capture almost by definition results in Big Anything winning over Small Anything. Its the nature of Big Government.

    Those of you defending small over big are shooting your dick’s off, and you don’t even know it.

    From your friendly small business owner…….

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  16. ponce says:

    “You can’t just throw out a line like that and not be thought a clown.”

    Drew,

    You do know the Republicans increased the size of the federal government by 50% the last time they were in power, right?

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  17. wr says:

    Drew — Which party was supporting Big Oil in the Gulf when the BP well blew out and which was supporting the small businesses who were hurting?

    Helpful hint: One party negotiated a $20 billion dollar fund to recompense small business owners and workers. The other apologized to BP for the their opponents being mean to the oild company.

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  18. PD Shaw says:

    wr, three words: oil drilling moratorium

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  19. george says:

    Isn’t the point that both the democrats and the republicans have in practice long favoured large businesses over small businesses? Neither have had any interest in small government or small business in decades – the differences between the two is neglible on that score.

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  20. [...] Reckoning Is Coming, agrees Doug Mataconis at Outside the Beltway. “If the Tea Party wants to remain true to its limited government [...]

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  21. john says:

    wr:
    “Which party was supporting Big Oil in the Gulf when the BP well blew out and which was supporting the small businesses who were hurting?”

    Seriously?

    See Obama vs Jindal.

    george: yes both are guilty, but, the dems continually claim to be against “big-business” all the while taking their money and supporting it. Here’s hoping the tea party ends that practice among the Repubs tho.

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  22. wr says:

    What about Obama vs. Jindal? Jindal spent the whole time demagoguing for immediate action with no scientific research building giant berms. Government scientists said it would be a waste of money, since the berms would wash away. Jindal won, screaming that the feds were destroying his state. Millions of dollars were spent, and the berms washed away before they could do any good.

    Jindal is a clown and a crook. I wonder how many of his campaign donors got contracts to build those berms.

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  23. wr says:

    PDS — Yes, oil drilling moratorium. Just like when an airplane falls out of the sky, similar planes are grounded until they know why it happened.

    Only those who care only about big business and its profits could be on the other side of this. Escpecially since there was almost no job loss from the moratorium, despite Jindal’s hysteria.

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  24. Tano says:

    Its pretty obvious that Drew is on to something here. Think about it – why does the Wall St, Journal, for instance, being the great champions of big money and big business – why do they love Obama and the Democrats so much?

    Think about it.

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  25. sam says:

    @Drew

    “Who bailed out GM and handed Big Labor unwarranted spoils? Obama.”

    In the interests of fairness:

    Who initiated the auto bailouts? Bush.

    Bush announces $17.4 billion auto bailout

    In the interests of accuracy:

    Who signed TARP? Bush All Over the Place

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  26. jd says:

    A “social issue” is an area that, by definition, requires change. A moratorium on social issues is an automatic win for the status quo.

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  27. wr says:

    jd — It’s possible that one could say that a “social issue” is an area that, by definition, someone thinks requires change. There are those who believe that it’s wrong that public schools can’t force children to pray to Jesus, and thus that’s a “social issue.” But there are a lot of people who don’t believe this area requires change. It”s still a social issue.

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  28. G.A.Phillips says:

    ***There are those who believe that it’s wrong that public schools can’t force children to pray to Jesus, and thus that’s a “social issue.” ***lol………and you was saying something about someone being a clown lol…….

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  29. tom p says:

    Drew, I tried to reply earlier today and got kicked off the internets. S’ok… others picked up for me

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  30. tom p says:

    “But Tom, the notion that the Democrats are the party of anything but Big Business, or Big Labor or Big Anything is preposterous on its face.”
    Yeah… Like Wal-Mart and the Service Employees International Union are working hand in hand…

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  31. tom p says:

    “Who received the most campaign money from Wall Street? Obama.”

    What… Obama got campaign money from wall street in 2010??????????????????????

    (you pick your year, I’ll pick mine)

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  32. tom p says:

    “Regulatory capture almost by definition results in Big Anything winning over Small Anything. Its the nature of Big Government.”

    Drew, if you think Dems are the only ones who do this (and for the record, I agree with you that the golden rule still rules)(the man with the gold makes the rules) you are either incredibly naive or incredibly myopic.

    You pick.

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  33. tom p says:

    “There are those who believe that it’s wrong that public schools can’t force children to pray to Jesus, and thus that’s a “social issue.” ***lol………and you was saying something about someone being a clown lol…….”

    GA, generally I refrain from insulting other peoples religous icons but in your case I will make an exception:

    F*** the baby jesus.

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  34. Pete says:

    I don’t know what Drew believes, but what I believe is that as businesses get big enough to afford buying influence, they do it. They do it to limit competition. Both parties do it. Big is bad when it comes to playing fair. And we all know that the world is not fair. I too am a small business man and I consider myself fortunate to make a profit. I just try to stay below the radar so the bigs and the libs don’t meddle in my affairs. I’ve been audited three times, by Feds and state, so I know the cost of getting in their crosshairs. But Drew is right in that the dems use big govt and big business to advance their agenda. But so do the republicans when the conservatives fail to pay attention.

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  35. steve says:

    @Drew- Donations by sector for 2004. Wall Street gives more money to the party in power or the one that it thinks will win an election.

    http://www.opensecrets.org/bigpicture/sectors.php?cycle=2004

    Steve

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  36. An Interested party says:

    “A gay conservative group and some Tea Party leaders are campaigning to keep social issues off the Republican agenda.”

    In other words, GOProud is willing to throw away the pursuit of rights for their members so that the Koch brothers won’t have to pay more in taxes…how nice…

    “The Tea Party movement is a non-partisan movement…”

    Except for the fact that the overwhelming majority of its members are Republicans…yes, other than that, I’m sure the movement is completely non-partisan…

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  37. [...] Reckoning Is Coming, agrees Doug Mataconis at Outside the Beltway. “If the Tea Party wants to remain true to its limited government [...]

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  38. [...] ” writes Doug Mataconis on the Outside the Beltway blog. “At some point this unnatural split in the GOP’s view on freedom will have to be [...]

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  39. mannning says:

    The correct view is to priortize the issues, keep all of them “warm”, but push for getting control of our finances, taxes, the need for a balanced budget (or ANY budget) and the debt first thing. The unemployment figure is still hovering just under 10% officially, and a lot more if properly accounted for, and we are still supporting troop deployments and combat missions in the ME and elsewhere. We need to clean out all of the government liberal appointees, czars, etc, and accept their resignations en masse, and rework many department regulations that have been bent out of shape by the current liberal fashionistas.

    A lot of issues rank higher than abortion, SSM, and an assortment of legal, constitutional and moral conflicts that have popped up (or slithered up), and these issues must be properly addressed in due time, say in 2013 when and if we have real power to fix them.

    First things first, but don’t forget the seconds and thirds!

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  40. [...] Is Coming, zgadza się Doug Mataconis na zewnątrz obwodnicy. “Jeśli Tea Party chce pozostać wierny swoim ograniczonym zasady [...]

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