No, the Tea Party Shouldn’t Avoid Social Issues


The theme of Michael Tanner at the National Review is that the Tea Party has become unpopular because it’s against gay marriage and illegal alien amnesty.

Yet it’s also true that the Tea Party’s clout is waning. According to the most recent Gallup poll, just 30 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of the movement, the lowest level in its history.

While this may technically be the lowest level, the Tea Party spent most of its time with a favorable rating in the 30s.

In 2011, the Tea Party had a favorability rating of 33 percent. So the notion that this is some sort of recent development in response to social issues has no basis in reality.

Sparked by outrage over the Wall Street bailouts, the original Tea Party was motivated by an opposition to Big Government. The motto of the Tea Party Patriots, one of the largest and most influential groups, was “fiscal responsibility, limited government, and free markets.” The Tea Party’s core issues were the skyrocketing national debt and opposition to Obamacare…

But the Tea Party has drifted away from its strict economic-conservative origins. Yes, opposition to Obamacare and government spending remain priorities. But increasingly issues such as abortion, gay marriage, and immigration have become the tail that wags the dog.

Tanner doesn’t provide any evidence that the Tea Party is now more focused on abortion than ObamaCare. He can’t provide that evidence because it doesn’t exist.

But the Tea Party also recognizes that economic issues can’t be divorced from social issues in many cases.

Tanner complains that Tea Party Patriots were “organizing not against Obamacare or raising the debt ceiling, but against immigration reform.” But Tanner doesn’t seem to understand that illegal alien amnesty will make it that much easier for the left to get through nationalized health care and even higher spending and taxation.

Importing large numbers of illegal Democrats who are the opposite of fiscal conservatives make fiscal conservatism unsustainable. Libertarians who refuse to accept the fact that open borders are incompatible with small government are committing suicide and asking everyone else to join them for the ride.

  • Jason P

    Yes and no …

    You are damn right that promiscuous immigration, especially from countries that generally favor paternalistic government, is a sure way to solidify the Democrat’s base for our continued path into socialism. Sane immigration along with a robust process of assimilation is another matter. The Democrats just want to import voters; we need not be shy about questioning their motives. (Some libertarians believe our laws can withstand a cultural demise. Odd, fellows!)

    That being said, the vast majority of Latin American immigrants are social conservatives. On social issues they’d be right at home with many Republicans. If that were the only issue, I’d find it odd that Tanner wants more and you want less. Interestingly their social conservatism comes with socialism (as you’re aware). That should be a double threat to Tanner. I like Mike, I’d like to see you both “duke it out” in a debate.

    • A Z

      Large Scale immigration is a good way to overpopulate the earth. Anyone leaving a country for the U.S. or Europe will be replaced in the country of origin. An example is Mexico. We have had massive immigration from Mexico and yet their population keeps going up. It is all but sky rocketing.

      You could find many in the West advocating for small families where children are limited to 1 or 2 to curb overpopulation (like Ted Turner) and then some other faction of the Left is advocating for 1 to 3 million people per year to be admitted into the U.S. That makes no sense whatsoever.

      • Jason P

        I thought I said that!

      • Jason P

        The Mexican fertility rate has decreased from 5.7 children per woman (in 1976) to 2.2 children today. That problem isn’t that there’s more there … but that they don’t share our cultural values. (PS I can’t delete my other response which was meant for another post.)

        • A Z

          If we act as the steam relief valve for every country, there is much less of need for them to get their act together.

          1980 66,846,833 +3.32%
          1990 81,249,645 +1.97%
          1995 91,158,290 +2.33%
          2000 97,483,412 +1.35%
          2005 103,263,388 +1.16%
          2010 112,336,538 +1.70%
          2013 118,395,054 +1.77%

          • Jason P

            The problem isn’t the quantity … it’s the quality. They have different values systems. I gather your concerned with a “population explosion.” Is that so?

          • A Z

            Both. I know demographers say that growth is slowing. But is it enough. there are areas that are less inhabitable. Did they take that into consideration?

        • laura r

          they are similar to the gypies, steal, lie, are aggressive. the nice mexicans have a hard time there, regardless which class they are from. so many victims in mexico.

    • Aurelius

      Interesting theory. Unfortunately, it fails the direct observation test. Whatever one may think about the immigrant, both legal and illegal, contributional value to the United States, the most obvious and accurate predictor is an examination of the country they are leaving behind. If enough Mexicans immigrate to any particular geographic area such that their numbers form a preponderance of the population, that geographic area becomes Mexico. Various cities in California bear witness to this simple fact.

      Any immigrant brings not a blank slate but rather his culture, social norms, religious beliefs, and political views right along with him. Some assimilate easier than others. Greatly so in some instances. Given the current trends of nonEuropean immigration into the U.S., we can fully expect a steady decline into Second World and then Third World status. The country will slowly become balkanized along racial and ethnic lines or will become a Brazil.


      • A Z

        “Any immigrant brings not a blank slate but rather his culture, social norms, religious beliefs, and political views right along with him. Some assimilate easier than others.”

        Nice statement. As you say they do not bring a blank slate
        (no tabula rasa).

        Lately, I have seen many Brasilians who are very upset about race and make no bones about it. I never say that 40 years ago.
        Is Brasil balkanized? I don’t know, but it isn’t all peaches and cream down there.

        • Daniel Greenfield

          Most Latin American countries are more stratified than the US

          • malikknows

            Key is we’ve abandoned the methods we traditionally used to assimilate immigrants. In fact, among cultural elites assimilation is a bad, coercive policy. They prefer a “salad bowl” vice the traditional “melting pot.” “E Pluribus Unum” has been abandoned in favor of “diversity.” There is simply no reason for recent immigrants to assimilate into the broader culture and become Americans as past generations have done. A splintered media makes it easy for people, esp. Hispanics, to maintain their cultural affinity to the country of origin. Because we no longer attempt to assimilate immigrants, I oppose amnesty.

      • Jason P

        I believe that was the point I was making.

    • Daniel Greenfield

      They’re not really social conservatives except in the hypothetical sense. These groups suffer from social dysfunction, broken families, etc that require government bailouts.

      • Jason P

        Perhaps we’re not talking about the same thing. I assumed “social conservative” is pro-life, traditional marriage, and family values.

        Latin America is generally opposed to abortion as this article from the Economist mentions:

        Although I was surprised to find it has recently become gay-friendly (several articles on request).

        The family is still big in Latin America, perhaps too important as the late Lawrence Auster writes:

        He describes it as a closed clannish dysfunctional type.

        Now, I find that Latin Americans favor paternalistic government and often in the most crude form of a dictatorship. They are certainly not economic conservatives, as they go for socialism in a heartbeat. However, I’m not convinced that they shouldn’t be called social conservatives. Not that I believe social conservatives should welcome them (as Auster explains.)

  • Shootist

    No, the Tea Party Shouldn’t Avoid Social Issues

    Then kill it before it’s born.

    The Right has two issues it can use as a wedge with “non-aligned” voters and some democrats. Taxes/small government (TAXED ENOUGH ALREADY) and The Right to Go Armed. The rest will just scare them away.

  • camp7

    While liberal Democrats and some Republicans ignore prudent economic policies to recklessly fund social programs, how can conservative groups such as the Tea Party possibly ignore social policy when promoting fiscal responsibility.

    Using immigration as an example is crucial. According to an analysis by NumbersUSA the pending Senate immigration bill would bring a minimum of 33 million people into the country the first decade. The cost of legalizing current illegal immigrants would be approximately 6.3 trillion over the next 50 years. 57 percent of legal and illegal immigrants are on welfare. LA spent 600 million dollars on welfare for illegal children in one year. California’s health care system is on the verge of collapse! The dynamics are astounding.

    In reference to Tea Party supporters there is another variable. There are many Independents and conservatives who don’t qualify themselves as Tea Party members but certainly support their ideology. Do the polls show that?


      Probably not.

  • Obamunist_Party

    IF the Tea Party gets into social issues, they are no longer the Tea Party. No social issues, no military interventionism. Absolutely not. The Bible thumpers and the warmongers have the GOP, they can stay there.

    • 2mrixl1

      Why would you want them to lose the base vote? You’re kidding, right? LOL Pretty funny. The Bible thumpers are not wanted in the mainstream GOP. They just want the big money boys. And the war mongers.

    • Daniel Greenfield

      Social issues can’t be divorced from economic issues since they are the cause.

  • Glenn Koons

    Pubs have to learn to chew gum and walk: There are so many issues with which to remind voters of via socialist Dems running not only in 2014 but ’16. Put the eco. issues first: Obamacare, joblessness, the end of the middle class, energy. Then go with the scandals. Then remind people that the Const. protects rights such as the 1,2, 10th amendments. There is no reason in certain targeted races that Pubs cannot use all of the issues. But focus on the issues the voters want to hear about and frankly, that is the eco. ones that will save jobs and free enterprise which Dems simply cannot do.

    • Daniel Greenfield

      obviously, but that’s politics,

  • 2mrixl1

    How about we end off-shoring, bring the jobs home and stop creating an oversupply of labor (you do know what happens to the price of anything when there is an oversupply don’t you) via mass immigration?

    • Daniel Greenfield

      all for it

  • TheUnknownPundit

    Is the Republican Party and conservatism a political movement or are
    they really a religious movement masquerading as a political movement? It’s
    really hard to tell the difference given that so many conservatives routinely
    bring religious canards into virtually every political discussion.
    The issues near and dear to social conservatives are a political non-starter in this day and age. After 35+ years, the socons are no closer to enacting their policies than they were in 1979. In fact, emphasizing social issues drives away moderate voters. And Republicans need moderate voters to win nationwide and many statewide elections.
    When people want to be preached to, they go to church. They don’t care to hear politicians and their supporters preaching to them.

    • Daniel Greenfield

      It’s not about the church, it’s about social dysfunction.

      • pupsncats

        And there is social dysfunction because there isn’t religion to reign in the passions that rule when man has no concept of the greater good.

    • truebearing

      I can see why you’ve remained unknown.

      If you knew anything about the origins of this nation, you would know that this country wasn’t primarily the result of people seeking political freedom, but instead, religious freedom, and the people seeking the freedoms protected by our 1st amendment were overwhelmingly Christians. The influence of Judeo/Christian values is ubiquitous throughout our early history, including our Declaration of Independence and Constitution. Even the concept of a Democratic Republic is a MORAL concept, not an economic one.

      This nation wasn’t founded by people who had a political theory that was also an economic theory. Christianity, democracy, and capitalism combined to give Americans an economy of opportunity, a political system that protected freedom, and a moral code that kept people basically honest and loyal to the guiding moral principles that were the foundation of free trade and representative government. Without morality, this nation wouldn’t have lasted five years.

      Modern day libertarians are some of the least perceptive or logical people I have encountered on the subject of morality in politics. They yammer incessantly about freedom or liberty, as if merely repeating the words is sufficient. They have no real idea as to how freedom is attained or preserved, confusing the issue as one of economic theory. Marx had economic theories that were supposed to usher in utopia, too. He just didn’t understand human nature, and neither do libertarian utopianists.

      Controlling conflict requires laws and police. The more people are “free” to indulge in destructive behaviors that derange their minds, the more police necessary to control them. The “free-to-do-as-one-wilt” (remarkably close to the satanic commandment) prescription for liberty leads rather quickly to a police state. I will cite the celebration of enlightenment by drugs in the 60’s, and the subsequent downward spiral of this nation as exhibit A. We are far less free now than in the period preceding the rejection of morals that began in the 60’s. It didn’t take very long either.

      The more freedom you want as a group, the more moral self-restraint required from each individual in the group. The more freedom you want as an individual, the higher degree of moral rectitude necessary in those who are around you. Your freedom is directly contingent on the decency and moral uprightness of your fellow citizens. As a population abandons personal moral restraint, the need for external morality, ie laws and police, increase. Immorality is a prescription for statism.

      Libertarianism is untenable as a governing ideology. It can only work as an influence on conservatism.

      Conservatism doesn’t exist without a moral component, but neither does libertarianism, or any other political belief. They all have their own morality, or anti-morality.

      Conservatism is less an ideology than a belief in fundamental principles that sustain human dignity, freedom, and life, and those principles are inseparable from morality and virtue.

      Morality is the human survival code. It isn’t a punishment. It is a gift. If you would delve deeper into the consequences of ideas and ideologies, you would understand conservatism much better, and conversely, the failings of modern Libertarianism, Marxism, etc. If you don’t understand the importance of morality in politics, you don’t really understand politics.

      • Naresh Krishnamoorti

        Brilliantly stated.

        Why can’t libertarians understand what everyone else
        understands? What the Founders understood, what Tocqueville understood, what conservatives understand, and what the Cultural Marxists understood better than anyone else: that libertarianism regarding moral issues is the direct cause of socialist tyranny.

        The Cultural Marxists(
        developed a strategy to promote worldwide communism, not by violent revolution or class warfare, but by attacking Christian values, marriage, family, the Church, the culture, and all traditional social structures. They understood that these values and these organizations protect the individual against dependency upon the State, and provide buffers that make it more difficult for the State to reach the individual directly.

        The reason why Americans have consistently voted for bigger
        government since the 1960’s is because since the 1960’s, traditional values and traditional organizations have been under attack.

        The overwhelming majority of single women vote for bigger
        government. A significant majority of married women vote for limited government. If a person really wants limited government, he will do whatever in his power to promote a culture in
        which there are fewer single women and more married women. He would also promote a culture in which women are encouraged to have many children, which is the only way to prevent the need to import cheap labor from the third-world.

        • truebearing

          One reason many of these so-called libertarians are buying into these false arguments that morality must somehow be kept out of politics, except for their version of morality, of course, is that many of them are young and were on the Left before they became disillusioned and careened wildly to the far Right. These are natural born ideologues, searching desperately for a magic, one-size-fits-all ideological solution to all problems, but especially their own. They want pot legalized, as well as any of their other vices, and since they were raised in a moral vacuum, they are looking for ideological amnesty for their favorite vice. Like all narcissists, they want what they want when they want it, and they don’t want any moral or legal culpability. In other words, they want freedom without goodness. An impossibility.

          What these people think is Libertarianism is really Libertinism, but they don’t know the difference, or don’t care.

          The Gramscian template for revolution in America was singularly focused on discrediting and supplanting Christianity, and in particular, Christian morality. Obama and his predescessors on the Left have been at this process for years, yet somehow the warnings of this truth fell on deaf ears. Now we have libertarians echoing the same seditious arguments of the Left, effectively flanking conservatives from the right. This insidious and foolish thinking on the part of these poorly educated, pseudo- libertarians, especially the naive young ones, has the potential to prevent unity on the Right, guaranteeing the Left its power monopoly. Needless to say, the Left has had its minions working overtime to salt these falsehoods among the gullible Paul supporters, etc.

      • SFTOBEY

        Excellent reply! Couldn’t have said it better myself. Our Founding Fathers did not give us a “democracy” (because they well understood the dangers inherent with a “democracy”); they gave us a Constitutional Republic.

        “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people”. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

        – John Adams

        • truebearing

          Great quote. I will be reminded of it in future debates with the fools who think morality can be surgically removed from governance, or who more foolishly think they could endure the consequences.

  • pupsncats

    It is my understanding the main principle of the Tea Party is to return to our Constitutional form of government rather than the administrative form in which we are ruled, and have been for a long time.

    But they haven’t articulated what this return might actually look like or how to do it. What they need is less populism and more strategy.

    • Look_A_Squirrel

      The strategy is called honoring the Constitution. Problem solved.

  • Look_A_Squirrel

    Does it ever occur to any of you pundits that the Tea Party has been attacked falsely by a 5 year barrage of lies from the media, the president, the IRS, the Speaker of the House, the Senate Majority Leader and a rabble of left wing totalitarian politicos who fear their grip on power would be loosened by a return to the Constitution?

    I think it’s amazing that 30% see the Tea Party in a positive light given that onslaught.

    However, while the Tea Party brand has been pummled, the Tea Party call for smaller government and lower taxes has gone mainstream.

    Why don’t you write about that?


      Send your opinion to Michael Tanner at the National Review. He’s the one parroting the GOP establishment about the Tea Party. Daniel Greenfield is just bringing that fact to light in this article.


      The sad answer to your question is that too many pundits are of the Establishment (or Libertarian, like Tanner) variety, even at NRO, which should be a bastion of Conservative thought but isn’t any more

  • Paula

    The Tea Party should avoid the social issues. That’s not why it was formed. The people are too diverse to agree on any one social issue. The media lies about the TP, they’re not Haters. If you follow the principles of the Constitution that the Tea Party holds true to, then ALL AMERCIANS HAVE WILL FREE TO THOSE SOCIAL ISSUES.


    “Libertarians who refuse to accept the fact that open borders are incompatible with small government are committing suicide and asking everyone else to join them for the ride.”

    Absolutely. This is an excellent article. If so-called “libertarians” cannot see the damage that the dissing of morality has done to this country over the last 50 years, then they are living in an “alternate” reality that bears no resemblance to true reality. (Personally, I believe that this country has gone too far down the wrong road to be able to come back with elections. But we can always try.)

    • Daniel Greenfield

      They’re living in an ideological reality in which things work because they’re right.


    “Libertarians who refuse to accept the fact that open borders are
    incompatible with small government are committing suicide and asking
    everyone else to join them for the ride.”

    Exactly so, and it needs to be said. I’m glad I’m not the only one trying to pound some sense into the heads of Libertarians. Thanks, Daniel!

  • Lobsterhead

    As long as Republicans and Tea Party members focus on abortion, gay marriage, and religion, they will lose. Stay focused on the constitution and economics. If tea party candidates continue to hire crappy advisers and campaign organizers, they will continue to have intelligent people who are unable to speak properly and make themselves appear to be idiots. Some examples are I’m not a witch and God won’t allow a raped woman to get pregnant.
    The tea party idiots actually allowed Obama to win a second term because they wouldn’t vote for Mitt Romney. Thank God they weren’t around when Carter ran for a second term. I definitely don’t want that Milk Toast Santorum as President.

    • corvinus

      Just because tea partiers are against abortion and gay marriage doesn’t mean that they’re “focusing” on them. Rather, the newsmedia jumps all over anybody who criticizes abortion and gay marriage, or makes off-color remarks about women. I agree that Akin and Mourdock were id!ots but refusing to attack abortion and gay marriage is quite frankly wussing out and handing those issues over to the left uncontested.

      And I’m not convinced that Romney would have been any better than 0bama. He did invent 0bamacare, after all, and I’m sure he would have tried to “fix” it rather than repeal it entirely. Not to mention push through amnesty for illegal aliens and get us into another Mideast war like Bush. After all, Republican presidents are pretty good at governing as a centrist. Bush was pro-war and pro-amnesty. Having an Establishment Republican president like Romney, McCain, or anybody named “Bush” doesn’t help matters at all, and arguably in some ways makes things worse.

  • Drewbueno

    Is immigration an economic issue? Of course. And this paper on the results of mass immigration in the 2000s explains everything you need to know about the results on our wages, unemployment, and labor force participation rates in a few helpful charts: