The Tea Party movement has taken great pains to publicly focus only on fiscal issues and a drive for small government. It has not taken official positions on the two touchstone social issues that Karl Rove and his Republican successors had traditionally used to whip up the fervor of the conservative base: gay rights and abortion. But this is simply a political tactic to attract the all important independents. When you pull back the thin mask, you very quickly see that the true face of the Tea Party movement is white, conservative, Christian, anti-gay, and anti-choice.
Majority of Americans Now Support Marriage Equality!
A poll by ABC/Washington Post released March 18th, 2011 shows that for the first time a majority of Americans support the right to same sex marriage (53%). This is truly a landmark swing in public opinion. Contrast that with an April 2010 CBS/New York Times poll that found only 16% of people who identified themselves with the Tea Party supported same sex marriage. While the timing of the polls is slightly different, the disparity in these numbers is breathtaking. It would appear that the Tea Party is even more anti-gay than the Republican Party, despite officially avoiding the issue.
The gambit made by the leaders of the Tea Party seems to be narrowly defining the issues of importance to those that are more palatable to a wider swath of voters, who presumably will be duped into voting for Tea Party candidates only to find a host of undiscussed and less palatable positions clinging like unwelcome guests to their coattails.
Tea Party is White, Republican, Conservative
The most reliable statistics I’ve seen for the demographics of Tea Party supporters comes from a Gallup poll conducted March 26-28, 2010. It revealed a group of people who match the US population generally, except decidedly whiter, more Republican and more conservative.
While Gallup characterizes the racial makeup of the Tea Party as similar to all US Adults, I believe that’s a difficult case to make. While 11% of US Adults are Non-Hispanic black, only half that number identified as Tea Party supporters. That’s a dramatic swing for this population. And while starting from a large base in the total population of Non-Hispanic whites, the Tea Party is even still whiter than that.
Republicans Move On From Gay Rights As Wedge Issue?
The Republican strategy seems to vascillate between ignoring gay rights issues and falling back on their anti-gay history almost reflexively. As the general population appears to have reached a tipping point, where an overwhelming majority of younger voters favor equal rights for gays and lesbians. They see this as a losing issue that will no longer stoke up the passions of a base and help them win power, instead it will appeal to an ever narrower group. Instead, they seem to be focused on seizing the momentum created through the success of the partial-birth abortion debate, and are instead focusing on this divisive social issue by introducing legislation which restricts access to abortion. And yet the House leader perma-spray-tan-orange John Boehner sees political points to be scored in spending your tax dollars having the House General Counsel defend the ridiculously titled Defense of Marriage Act after President Obama and Attorney General Holder announced they would no longer defend the act because they have concluded it is unconstitutional. Oh what to do with those pesky gays?
Tea Party As Refuge of Intolerance
This leaves the anti-gay zealots with nowhere to turn but the Tea Party. And remember, even if they hold true and focus only on fiscal issues (which I doubt), this means that they are defending the status quo. And the status quo means inequality for the GLBT community. So it’s just a more polite form of discrimination.
So if you are looking at your tax bill, and tempted by the narrowly focused arguments of the Tea Party to support their message of fiscal restraint and smaller government, remember that you would be casting your lot with people who think that gays and lesbians are abominations who do not deserve equal rights. And that, my friends, in truly abominable.