Ben Smith sees a Tea Party that isn’t too interested in fighting the culture war:
The rise of a new conservative grass roots fueled by a secular revulsion at government spending is stirring fears among leaders of the old conservative grass roots, the evangelical Christian right.
A reeling economy and the massive bank bailout and stimulus plan were the triggers for a resurgence in support for the Republican Party and the rise of the tea party movement. But they’ve also banished the social issues that are the focus of many evangelical Christians to the background.
Given the enthusiastic response Tea Partiers received at the Values Voter Conference last month, and judging from the attending Tea Partiers’ open identification with values voters, I’m not sure that I agree with this assessment. While it’s possible that Tea Party leaders are averse to the religious right’s social conservatism, it’s clearly true that social conservatism resonates with many rank-and-file members of the Tea Party.
Indeed, according to a recent survey by the Public Religion Research Institute, nearly half (47 percent) of Tea Party members consider themselves part of the Christian conservative movement, with that number jumping to 57 percent when confined to the 81 percent of Tea Partiers who identify as Christian. Like Christian conservatives, Tea Partiers are overwhelmingly white (eight in 10 for the Tea Party, nearly seven in 10 for the religious right) and mostly older. On most issues, there is little daylight between the Tea Party and the religious right; 63 percent of Tea Partiers think abortion should typically be illegal, and only 18 percent support same-sex marriage. 55 percent of Tea Partiers and 43 percent of white evangelicals agree that America is a Christian nation.
Of course, none of this really comes as a surprise; the Tea Party is little more than a hyped up and rebranded version of the conservative grass roots. Eight years ago, these people formed the core of George W. Bush’s base, and before that, came out to sabotage Bill Clinton’s presidency. The Tea Party has a strong resemblance to the religious right because for the most part, the Tea Party is the religious right
-- Jamelle Bouie