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SteepThe Precipitous Rise of the Tea Party$

Lawrence Rosenthal and Christine Trost

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780520274228

Published to University Press Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520274228.001.0001

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The Future of the Tea Party

The Future of the Tea Party

Scoring an Invitation to the Republican Party

Chapter:
(p.212) Chapter 9 The Future of the Tea Party
Source:
Steep
Author(s):

Martin Cohen

Publisher:
University of California Press
DOI:10.1525/california/9780520274228.003.0010

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter analyzes the Tea Party's likely effect on the Republican Party. It explores the criteria needed for movement newcomers to have an effect on the established parties, and then analyzes the success of the religious right in inserting itself into the Republican Party. It argues that the recent rise of the Tea Party can be understood best by comparing it to the last great influx of political outsiders seeking to reconfigure the Republican Party—the Christian right. The best analogue to current Tea Party efforts to remake the Republican Party in its image is the influx of social conservatives, with the first wave of organizing beginning in the late 1970s and the second wave commencing in the early 1990s. A comparison of the Christian right with the Tea Party shows that the Tea Party movement, as it is constructed now, is ill-suited to successfully influence the Republican Party. The Tea Party must make significant changes as a movement to gain a permanent, meaningful foothold within the Republican Party.

Keywords:   Tea Party movement, Republican Party, religious right, Christian right, social conservatives

At this stage in the political life of the Tea Party movement, there are almost as many angles to explore as there are signs at a typical rally. Part of the popular allure of the fledgling movement is the notion that these are political outsiders tired of the way the two parties are conducting the people’s business. The movement has tapped into the anxiety and frustration prevalent in our nation today, but we know from our political history that if outsiders want to accomplish anything substantive, they must come in from the outside and inject themselves into our two-party system. In the case of the Tea Party, this necessarily means working within the Republican Party to impact public policy. One way to analyze this compelling new movement is to study its relationship with the Republican Party.

Everyone wants to know whether the Tea Party will ultimately be a flash in the pan, a footnote in our political history, or whether it will significantly influence American politics for decades to come. History shows that this will depend almost entirely on whether the Tea Party is first able to significantly influence the Republican Party. The ability to get the party to stress its issues, to move the party toward its views on the issues, and to take control over at least some of the official party apparatus will all be necessary for the Tea Party to achieve anything of value in upcoming years. Previous movements have also been faced with this test. Abolitionists, populists, progressives, and suffragettes all (p.213) found their greatest successes not when they ran third-party candidates but when they worked within the two-party system.

The recent rise of the Tea Party can be understood best by comparing it to the last great influx of political outsiders seeking to reconfigure the Republican Party—the Christian right. The best analogue to current Tea Party efforts to remake the Republican Party in its image is the influx of social conservatives, with the first wave of organizing beginning in the late 1970s and the second wave commencing in the early 1990s. While the first wave of Christian right organizing saw limited gains in both policy and stature, the second wave corrected many of the faults of the earlier approach and the Christian right built itself into the major faction in GOP politics. A comparison of the Christian right with the Tea Party will show that the Tea Party movement, as it is constructed now, is ill-suited to successfully influence the Republican Party. The Tea Party must make significant changes as a movement to gain a permanent, meaningful foothold within the Republican Party.

Parties as Coalitions

“Modern democracy is unthinkable save in terms of parties.”1 These were the words of the eminent political scientist E. E. Schattschneider, and to this day, very few scholars would deny how important parties are to how our system of government works. The centrality of parties in our political system was proved early on when Thomas Jefferson won election to the presidency as the head of an organized party. If Jefferson, who famously wrote in 1789 that he would not go to heaven if he needed a party to get there, acknowledged the need for political parties by starting one only a few years later, then clearly parties are vital to achieving political success.2

From the beginning of partisan conflict in this country, political parties have attempted to cobble together majorities to win elective office and pursue certain public policies. For Schattschneider, a party is “an organized attempt to control government.”3 Cohen et al. argue that parties are the creation of interest groups, ideological activists, and others they call intense policy demanders. The direction a party takes is determined by the tug-of-war between groups of activists within the party.4 The New Deal Coalition was an example where the main coalition members—blacks, Jews, Southerners, Catholics, labor—all placed themselves firmly behind governmental policies designed to stimulate the economy and provide a safety net for its citizens. As long (p.214) as the goals of the group members complemented each other, intra-party conflict would be relatively minor. Of course there were intra-party conflicts, but impressively, southern segregationists and northern liberals both continued to vote “D” for roughly two decades after the Dixiecrats walked out of the 1948 Democratic National Convention. The New Deal Coalition eventually broke apart when different sets of issues, namely civil rights, the Vietnam War, and the 1960s counterculture, created intractable disagreements among the party’s coalition members.

Not every party coalition is as long-lasting or electorally potent as the New Deal Coalition was between 1933 and 1968, and not every party coalition collapses as dramatically as that same coalition did in the years that followed. The post-war Republican Party has had to overcome partisan infighting that first revolved around ideology. In the 1950s and ‘60s, so-called liberal and moderate Republicans accepted general New Deal economic principles and only differed from the Democrats in terms of degree—how much the government should be involved. Conservative Republicans fundamentally disagreed with activist government and sought to dismantle the New Deal. This fight played out during the 1952 Republican National Convention when Eisenhower and Robert Taft battled for the nomination. Of course, Eisenhower and his side’s outlook prevailed.5 But twelve years later, moderate Republicanism was booed off the stage in San Francisco when Barry Goldwater led the ultraconservative wing of the party to prominence.6

When new groups enter a partisan coalition, if they really want to have a say in the direction the party takes, they must seek to influence the nomination process. They must play an active role in determining who will be the nominee. Ideally, a group would be able to shepherd its own handpicked candidate to victory. At the very least, a new group should be able to have some influence on the nomination process in exchange for gaining assurances that their particular interests will be addressed if the party’s candidate gets elected. It is not a surprise that GOP intraparty conflict reached a head at the nomination conventions in 1952 and 1964. Nominations are the most important activities a party undertakes. Selecting a candidate, at any level, to represent the party on the November ballot obviously goes a long way to determining how successful a party will be. It also shows which groups within the party are preeminent. When Goldwater won the nomination, it was clear that the Republican Party had been taken over by its conservative wing. Indeed, Goldwater supporters traversed the country in the years (p.215) prior to the convention, looking to gain the support of party leaders. This effort was handsomely rewarded when their candidate became the party’s standard bearer. Winning nominations is how a group gains control of a party, regardless of whether it is the presidential nomination or a nomination for state senator. The nominee is the party’s representative and signals what the party will stand for if he or she is elected.

Minority factions like religious conservatives and the Tea Partiers have to go through one of the two major parties, but it is rarely easy. They figure to encounter some resistance even if it is just from establishment leaders protecting their turf. Resistance may also come from those in the establishment who do not want to see the party move in the direction of the newcomers. This is usually an ideological struggle but it can also be about socioeconomic status or other intraparty divisions. Parties are coalitions. When a party adds groups, current coalition members either accept the newcomers and everything they bring with them, or they desert the party. Adding new groups is helpful only when the concurrent losses are not greater. Some political outsiders are less attractive than others and may meet more resistance.

For this analysis, I have identified three criteria that will impact how welcome a new group, in this case the Tea Party, will be to the party establishment. The first one deals with issue popularity. Are the new issues pushed by the insurgents broadly popular? Are they popular among those groups that already make up the party? And what are the prospects for appealing to other voters if these issues are brought to the forefront of the party agenda? The second criterion has to do with electoral gain. The new group must bring in enough new voters to justify the losses that might be incurred—the loss of leadership positions, the loss of other voters. Plus, the new voters must truly be “new” or else any losses are unacceptable. The third criterion relates to political rhetoric and tactics. Moderation and sophistication are most helpful to political insurgents attempting to gain prominence within a major political party.

After providing some brief background, I will compare the first two waves of Christian right organizing with the Tea Party on these three criteria to draw conclusions about the latter’s potential for bringing the Republican Party more in line with its ideals and goals and ultimately influencing public policy. The first “wave” of Christian right activism ended around the time the 1980s drew to a close. In 1986, Jerry Falwell disbanded the Moral Majority and Pat Robertson’s presidential (p.216) campaign in 1988 was judged a failure when he failed to win a single primary. So when the 1990s dawned, the movement was thought to be dead. However, Robertson and Ralph Reed soon founded the Christian Coalition and the second wave was said to have begun.7

Background on the Two Waves of the Christian Right Movement

First Wave

The Christian right’s roots are not so much ideological as they are doctrinal. Religion, of course, plays a large role in how evangelical Christians see the world and therefore how they behave politically.8 The latter half of the nineteenth century was the heyday of American evangelicalism. Evangelicals not only focused on winning souls to Christ, but they also sought during this time to reform society. Abolition, prohibition, and alleviating poverty were a few of the causes evangelicals actively pursued. As society modernized and secularized—with increases in industrialization, urbanization, and immigration, as well as advances in transportation—evangelicals found themselves ostracized from society. They became cultural outsiders. Evangelicals withdrew from, compromised with, or resisted society. Those who resisted simply refused to accept the new thinking. They continued to insist the Bible was the word of God, miracles really happened, that unless one had experienced religious conversion they were destined to hell, and that the book of Genesis provided an accurate account of the origin of life and species. They also believed in pre-millennialism. This meant that instead of Jesus coming back after the millennium, he would return and usher in the new millennium and save the world from Armageddon. Thus, good Christians should concentrate only on spreading the gospel rather than bettering society. Evangelicals made their withdrawal from public and political life complete after the embarrassment of the Scopes Monkey Trial. They basically gave up on public life and retreated into their separate religious entities not to reemerge until the mid-1970s.9

For the most part, these religious conservatives, residing mostly but not exclusively in the South, were consciously brought back into politics by conservative activists focused on remaking the Republican Party in their image. Activists such as Paul Weyrich, Richard Viguerie, and Howard Phillips realized these individuals might be more easily mobilized through their churches. So they set out to recruit fundamentalist (p.217) preachers to the politically conservative cause. Through the preachers, they had a built-in entrée into their politically conservative congregations. These congregations were in effect pre-mobilized and could be reached easily through the structure of the church.

At this time, several evangelists had made inroads into television. They were televangelists and they were very popular. They were already raising money for the churches. They already had donor lists. The possibilities for a mutually beneficial relationship between conservative Republican operatives and leaders were endless. Both sides agreed that the country was becoming too permissive. Morality needed to be tightened up in the wake of the 1960s. Issues like abortion, gay rights, and feminism were bothering both groups.

The biggest fish in the televangelist pool was a Fundamentalist preacher named Jerry Falwell. Falwell’s congregation numbered 17,000 in the late 1970s. His Old-Time Gospel Hour was seen weekly on 373 television stations and more importantly raised $35 million from the 2.5 million people on its mailing lists. In May 1979, Bob Billings of the National Christian Action Conference invited Falwell to a meeting with new right secular operatives Howard Phillips, Richard Viguerie, and Paul Weyrich. Ed McAteer of the Religious Roundtable was also in attendance. The four men told Falwell of their shared opposition to abortion and pornography and how they wanted to influence the 1980 GOP platform. Weyrich felt if they could persuade the Republican Party to take a strong stance against abortion, this would split the strong Catholic voting bloc within the Democratic Party. The new right leaders wanted Falwell to spearhead an organization to put pressure on the GOP. Weyrich proposed the name “Moral Majority,” and the first wave of Christian right organizing had begun in earnest.10

Second Wave

The seeds of the so-called second wave were planted when the Reverend Pat Robertson revealed that God had called him to run for president in 1988. Robertson put to use his considerable fund-raising prowess and tapped millions of people who already supported him through his ministry and his popular television show, The 700 Club. After a surprising second-place finish in Iowa, Robertson failed to win a single primary. And after being beaten handily by Vice President Bush in South Carolina, his campaign was finished.11 However, the long-term impact of this effort was much more consequential for two reasons. First, those (p.218) activists who supported Robertson in his bid for convention delegates remained active in Republican Party affairs. They fought to gain prominent positions within the party hierarchy. On the one hand, this was a threat to the establishment since their turf was being encroached upon, and in many states leadership of the party was hanging in the balance. But many Republicans realized that here was a large group of newly active, highly motivated voters who were now beginning to identify with the Republican Party.12 Second, Robertson’s campaign lists were put to good use in the early 1990s when Robertson and Ralph Reed started a national organization designed to channel the political energy of conservative Christians. It was called the Christian Coalition. The basic purpose of the Christian Coalition was to make government more responsive to the concerns of evangelical Christians and pro-family Catholics.13 It was to be primarily a grassroots organization and its leaders hoped to improve on some of the faults of earlier New Christian Right groups.

Comparing the Christian Right and the Tea Party: Issue Popularity and Electoral Gain

In this section, I utilize various survey data to compare, with their contemporaries, religious conservatives during the first and second waves of Christian right activism and Tea Partiers using the first two criteria of an effective insurgent movement previously set forth: issue popularity and electoral gain. I use National Election Studies from 1980 and 1992 to analyze religious conservatives at the beginning of the first and second waves of Christian right activism.14 For the Tea Party, I use the New York Times’s April 2010 survey of Tea Party supporters as well as several Gallup polls reported in July 2010.15

Criterion #1: Issue Extremism?

First Wave

Abortion was clearly the most important issue for evangelicals who reemerged onto the American political scene beginning in the 1970s. In fact, for many religious conservatives, abortion was the primary reason they decided to become politically active. Jerry Falwell had always believed that politics and the pulpit should remain completely separate. However, he claims he changed his mind the day the Supreme Court (p.219)

Table 9.1 Christian Right: First-Wave Issues

Religious Conservatives

All Respondents

Republicans

Independents

Democrats

Abortion illegal in all cases

21%

12%

9%

12%

13%

Abortion illegal except in cases of rape, incest, and to save mother’s life

41%

33%

34%

30%

33%

Disapprove of ERA

47%

39%

56%

33%

29%

SOURCE: 1980 American National Election Studies.18

handed down its decision in Roe v. Wade. In The Fundamentalist Phenomenon, Falwell argues that life begins at fertilization and that abortion is the murder of human life. For these reasons, he and his followers led the charge in the early 1980s for a constitutional amendment to ban abortion. There would be no exceptions and no compromises.16

In general, so-called women’s issues were extremely important to evangelicals at this time. They wholeheartedly resisted threats to traditional gender roles. Phyllis Schlafly, a well-known moral traditionalist, led the fight against the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) and many credit Schlafly and her organization, Eagle Forum, with keeping the ERA from passing in the requisite number of states. In late 1978, even before the Moral Majority was formed, Jerry Falwell helped defeat a state version of the ERA in Florida.

Religious conservatives had strong views on abortion, the Equal Rights Amendment, and a woman’s role in society more generally. Table 9.1 compares religious conservatives with other Americans on these two issues. By comparing our target group with all Americans, we can get a sense for how far out of the mainstream religious conservatives were on these issues. Just over one-fifth of religious conservatives believed abortion should be illegal in all cases.17 When we add in those who believed abortion should be illegal except in cases of rape, incest, and when the mother’s life is in danger, 62 percent of religious conservatives took this view compared to 45 percent of all respondents. A strong pro-life stand at this time was a minority position.

By comparing religious conservatives with Republicans, we can get a sense for how receptive the GOP would be to this new group coming in (p.220) and pushing a strong pro-life position. Only 43 percent of Republicans agreed that abortion should be either banned completely or banned except for the most difficult cases. And finally, what can we say about independents? Any party looking to increase its chances of winning elections has to pay attention to the unaffiliated, those who might be “up for grabs.” The advantages of bringing in a new group have to be weighed against the chances that independents will be turned off to a more extreme party, and, as Table 9.1 shows, independents were significantly less pro-life than the insurgents.

To summarize, religious conservatives were much more pro-life than the rest of the country’s citizens. In 1980, Republicans and independents were also significantly less likely to take strong pro-life stands. This suggests that unless religious conservatives would be willing to compromise on abortion, their views probably would not be welcome on this issue. And sure enough, many first-wave activists were quite assertive and quite unwilling to accept anything less than a total ban on abortion. New right stalwarts such as Paul Weyrich and Richard Viguerie sharply criticized President Reagan for his unwillingness to put his full weight behind the cause.19 Looking at the survey data, it is not much of a surprise that the president chose not to take on this relatively unpopular cause.

On the Equal Rights Amendment, 47 percent of religious conservatives disapproved compared with 39 percent of all respondents. This is not a huge difference in magnitude but is still statistically significant. Interestingly, on the ERA, Republicans would seem to be willing to welcome additional activists who were against the ERA since they were actually more conservative on this issue. In 1980, 56 percent of Republicans were against the ERA, and indeed, the 1980 GOP platform reversed its long-standing support for the Equal Rights Amendment. Independents were a different story, as only one-third disapproved of the ERA.

Second Wave

Abortion continued to be a hot-button issue for Christian conservatives during the early 1990s. The Supreme Court had come extremely close to overturning Roe but stopped short in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey. High-profile protests led by Operation Rescue kept the issue in the national spotlight, and pro-choice (p.221)

Table 9.2 Christian Right: Second-Wave Issues

Religious Conservatives

All Respondents

Republicans

Independents

Democrats

Abortion illegal in all cases

20%

11%

12%

9%

10%

Abortion illegal except to save mother’s life

41%

28%

34%

25%

24%

Approve of parental consent

86%

76%

82%

77%

70%

Disapprove of using state funds

63%

50%

61%

49%

41%

Approve of spousal notification

80%

65%

70%

69%

61%

Disapprove of gays in the military

56%

41%

55%

39%

32%

Disapprove of gay adoption

85%

72%

82%

74%

65%

Prayer should be allowed in public schools

94%

88%

92%

90%

85%

SOURCE: 1992 American National Election Studies.20

groups responded to the pressure with an intense mobilization effort of their own. Taking a look at Table 9.2, we see that religious conservatives still were much more likely to support banning abortion except in cases of rape, incest, and life of the mother.

Despite abortion being such a controversial issue, or maybe because of it, we see very little movement in public opinion between 1980 and 1992. The key difference in the relationship between the Christian right and the Republican Party, however, lies in the approach taken by second-wave activists. One of the lessons Ralph Reed took from the failures of groups like the Moral Majority was their unwillingness to compromise—rather than accepting a half loaf, they often got nothing. The Christian Coalition realized the futility of screaming for a constitutional amendment to ban abortion. Instead, members focused their energy and rhetoric on restrictions to abortion that were more widely (p.222) popular. By focusing on parental consent, disallowing state funds to be used for abortion, and spousal notification, conservatives were able to turn the tables and paint as extremist liberals who opposed these restrictions. On these three items, religious conservatives were predictably much stronger supporters than the rest of the country. However, unlike with making abortion illegal for most women, majorities of Republicans, independents, and even Democrats in some cases also supported these restrictions. This change in strategy and expectations on the important issue of abortion made the religious right much more attractive to Republicans hoping to rebuild a majority coalition in the wake of Bill Clinton’s election and the return of unified Democratic government.

On other issues important to religiously conservative activists, the Christian right also found common ground with Republicans and even some independents. Just over half of religious conservatives and Republicans came out against gays serving in the military. Independents were much more tolerant on this issue, but religious conservatives found themselves with the median voter on gay adoption. Eight-five percent of religious conservatives disapproved of gay adoption in 1992, and while that number was much higher than the rest of the country, it was not much different than Republicans. In addition, 74 percent of independents were also against gay adoption. And on allowing prayer in schools, large majorities of all subgroups agreed. Of course, religious conservatives led the way but they were not significantly more in favor of it than Republicans and independents.

By showing a willingness to compromise on abortion and coming out against gays in the military and gay adoption, second-wave insurgents did not ruffle the feathers of many Republicans, nor did it appear they would repel too many independents. Coupled with a change in tactics and rhetoric (discussed later in this chapter), the 1990s version of the Christian right became a much more palatable coalition member than it was in the 1980s.

Tea Party

The Tea Party first emerged on the national scene in the spring of 2009. Obama’s plan to bail out struggling homeowners had become particularly controversial in the wake of the Troubled Asset Relief Program that many saw as a bailout of the banks. To many, the word bailout meant government giving something to people who did not deserve it. These (p.223)

Table 9.3 Tea Party: Issues Thought To Be “Extremely Serious Threats” to Future U.S. Well-Being

Tea Party Supporter

Neutral

Tea Party Opponent

Federal government debt

61%

44%

29%

Terrorism

51%

43%

29%

Size and power of federal government

49%

30%

12%

Health care costs

41%

37%

33%

SOURCE: May 2010 and June 2010 Gallup Poll.21

bailouts, along with the $787 billion stimulus package, convinced many on the right that government spending was raging out of control. Many Tea Partiers worried about the debt that was piling up and wanted to restrain their government from spending more than it could afford. And with the rolling out of Obama’s complex plan to reform our health care system, the perceived big-spending, meddling government trifecta was complete. Bailouts, stimulus, and “Obamacare” combined to create a compelling narrative for those who were afraid of an overbearing, overspending, federal government. This narrative fit nicely with the ideology of libertarian-leaning groups like FreedomWorks that played a large role in financing and organizing the Tea Party.

In a Gallup poll report published in July 2010, citizens were asked what issues they thought to be “extremely serious threats” to the future well-being of the United States. Among Tea Party supporters, 61 percent cited “federal government debt,” making it easily the most salient issue for this group of Americans. After terrorism at 51 percent, the next two issues were “the size and power of the federal government” (at 49 percent) and “health care costs” (at 41 percent). As Table 9.3 shows, Tea Party supporters were much more concerned about these four issues than Tea Party opponents or even those who considered themselves neutral toward the Tea Party.

Besides differing from other Americans in terms of how important these issues were for the well-being of the United States, Tea Partiers also distinguished themselves in terms of their views on what should be done to solve these problems. Touching on the size and power of government as well as government debt, 92 percent of Tea Party supporters would prefer smaller government and fewer services to bigger government and more services. Among all Americans, only half would choose that option. On health care, 85 percent of Tea Party supporters (p.224)

Table 9.4 Tea Party Issues: Supporters versus All Americans

Tea Party Supporters

All Americans

Smaller government, fewer services

92%

50%

Don’t require all to have health insurance

85%

45%

Don’t raise taxes on rich to pay for health insurance

80%

39%

SOURCE: April 2010 New York Times Poll.22

believe the government should not require that everybody purchase health insurance. Only 45 percent of all Americans are in agreement with that position. And finally, 80 percent of Tea Partiers as opposed to 39 percent of all Americans think that the government should not raise taxes on the rich to pay for health insurance.

It is clear from Tables 9.3 and 9.4 that on the issues that matter most to the Tea Party, Tea Party supporters are considerably further to the right of the median voter. In fact, the only group equally conservative on the federal government’s role in the economy is Republicans. When asked whether the government is doing too much that should be left to individuals and businesses, 80 percent of Tea Party supporters say yes while 81 percent of Republicans agree. In Chapter 8 of this book, Alan Abramowitz echoes and expands upon these findings. He looks at several additional issues and finds that the Tea Party is far more conservative than the overall electorate. And while he shows that the plurality of Americans is slightly left of center, over half of Tea Partiers are strong conservatives.23

Using the standards I laid out earlier in the chapter, it would appear that the Tea Party is rather extreme when it comes to the issues they most care about. However, they should not expect much resistance ideologically from the GOP. This makes sense considering several groups indirectly affiliated with the Republican establishment, like FreedomWorks, have shown their support for the Tea Party movement. But this could ultimately prove problematic for both the Tea Party movement and the Republicans that display agreement with it. Many in the media have argued that the Tea Party’s ideology consists only of broad ideas—lowering taxes, cutting spending—that have not yet been tied to any specific policies. In other words, if Tea Party supporters actually got their way, what exactly would they do? How would their ideology play out when they have to govern? Specific cuts to popular programs like Social Security, Medicare, or the defense budget would undoubtedly alienate (p.225) even more voters and presumably many Republicans, too. And promises to abolish the Departments of Education and Energy, among others, have been widely panned by voters and pundits alike. It would appear that the policy manifestations of their main principles can only lead to political actions that would be quite unpopular with many Americans, including some of those with whom they have been in agreement so far.

Comparing the Movements

One of the main reasons the first wave of Christian right organizing failed to live up to early expectations of its political prowess is that those involved aggressively pushed issue positions that were unpopular with sizable majorities of the public. The second wave took one of the same issues—abortion—and realized that extreme policies would never be enacted, and that trying to do so would only alienate the Republican establishment, let alone independents and conservative Democrats. So Ralph Reed led an effort to seek compromises on the issue of abortion and led the fight for state-level restrictions with which most of the country agreed. This strategy allowed religious conservatives to gain power and influence within the Republican Party, not to mention actually restrict abortion. In addition, Reed focused a good deal of his movement’s energies on other types of issues that were more broadly popular within the Republican Party. This bought him some respect from establishment Republicans who realized the party was more important than one group’s pet issues.24

Given this history, it would appear that the Tea Party movement can be successful and make progress on its main issues even though supporters’ beliefs might not be shared by anyone but conservative Republicans. The key would be to stop short of advocating extreme positions and seek compromises that are more palatable to the American people. If it can be done on such a controversial, life-or-death issue as abortion, it can certainly be done on something like taxes and spending that would seem to evoke a less emotional and visceral reaction.

Criterion #2: Electoral Gain?

First Wave

The second criterion that should have an impact on how easily a group of political outsiders can make its presence felt in one of the major parties has to do with how much of an electoral gain it figures to provide. (p.226) As discussed previously, parties are coalitions of groups and acceding to one group’s demands usually means that other groups in the coalition are getting less of what they want. Almost always, it is a case of issue emphasis, as most of the time parties do not contain groups directly opposed to one another. But when a new group appears, all bets are off. When Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, he famously remarked that he was signing away the South to the Republicans. White southerners were significant members of the New Deal coalition prior to this point. It was not long before they were gone. Besides the desire to right historical wrongs, President Johnson, and Truman before him, calculated that the electoral gain of moving more quickly toward civil rights would be worth the loss that would surely be incurred. This calculation helped Truman win the election of 1948. Johnson’s Democratic Party was not so fortunate. The bottom line is that the more electoral gain that can be achieved by cozying up to a new group, the more likely it will occur. The members of the establishment will be that much less resistant to potential attacks on their positions of power inside the party if they sense that their positions of power outside the party will get stronger. It may not always be as easy to gauge as it was in 1964, but to the extent it can be, electoral gain provides an objective measure of what the electoral consequences will be of a new group entering the party coalition.

To estimate the potential for electoral gain, it is necessary to consider who these new people are who are coming into the party. What is their partisan and ideological breakdown? At what rate do they vote? Those are the major questions that will help determine relative electoral gain. Looking at Table 9.5, in 1980, religious conservatives virtually mirrored the partisanship breakdown found among all Americans. They were a bit more conservative and a bit less likely to be liberal. They were registered to vote at almost exactly the same rate as the nation at large. And most importantly, when they voted in the past, they were more likely to have voted Democratic. This looks exactly like the group Paul Weyrich and others had in mind when they set out to fashion a realignment out of moral and cultural issues. The potential for major political gain was great. And indeed, the early returns after the 1980 presidential election suggested that some of these gains were realized.

The strategy of the Moral Majority and other similar organizations in the first wave was to connect moral and religious conservatism to the Republican Party. But for this to pay off, these groups would have to also get their congregations to vote at higher levels than they were accustomed. Table 9.6 shows that this effort was largely a fruitful one. (p.227)

Table 9.5 Partisanship, Ideology, and Past Voting Behavior of Religious Conservatives, 1980

Religious Conservatives

All Respondents

Republican

33%

33%

Independent

11%

13%

Democratic

56%

53%

Conservative

53%

44%

Moderate

29%

31%

Liberal

18%

25%

Registered to vote

72%

74%

Always voted Republican

10%

13%

Have voted for both parties

53%

57%

Always voted Democratic

37%

30%

SOURCE: 1980 American National Election Studies.

Table 9.6 Voter Turnout by Religious Groups and Region, 1980

South

Non-South

Evangelicals

Others

Evangelicals

Others

Turned out for all/most of prior presidential elections

61.1%

70.5%

60.8%

73.2%

Voted in 1980

77.0%

65.9%

74.6%

73.3%

Change in mobilization

+15.9%

−4.6%

+13.8%

+0.1%

Clyde Wilcox, God’s Warriors: The Christian Right in Twentieth-Century America (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991), 116.

In 1980, evangelicals across the country became a much larger proportion of the electorate than they had been in the previous election. And this newly enlarged group moved toward Reagan and the Republicans. Among self-identified born-again white Protestants, Reagan received 65 percent of their votes compared to Ford’s 50 percent in 1976. Clyde Wilcox, an eminent Christian right scholar concluded the following:

There is mixed evidence concerning the possible mobilization of previously apolitical evangelicals and fundamentalists by the Moral Majority. Although supporters did not turn out at a significantly higher rate than nonsupporters, there are hints in the data that they voted more often than others with a similar demographic and participatory background. Moreover, although the vote choice of the Moral Majority is fully consistent with their partisanship, there is some evidence that they have changed their partisanship at some point in their life.25 (italics mine)

(p.228)

Table 9.7 Partisanship, Ideology, and Past Voting Behavior of Religious Conservatives, 1992

Religious Conservatives

All Respondents

Republican

37%

38%

Independent

12%

12%

Democratic

51%

50%

Conservative

53%

41%

Moderate

30%

31%

Liberal

17%

28%

Registered to vote

64%

75%

Always voted Republican

N/A

N/A

Have voted for both parties

N/A

N/A

Always voted Democratic

N/A

N/A

SOURCE: 1992 American National Election Studies.

Second Wave

Table 9.7 shows that, in 1992, religious conservatives were still divided between the parties in a similar proportion as the rest of the country. They were significantly more conservative, however, and it is well known that they had moved sharply toward the Republican Party in presidential elections. Party identification is always slowest to transition and that is probably what was happening here. The troubling number for Republicans looking to become the majority party backed by its newest coalition member is the 64 percent of religious conservatives that were registered to vote in 1992, compared to 75 percent of the entire country. That means the full potential of the moral/cultural realignment was not being realized. Religious conservatives were still rightly seen as the target group, but in the 1990s and 2000s, it became more about mobilization than conversion. These Americans, when they did vote during this time, went strongly for Republicans—generally at a 3:1 clip.

Ralph Reed and the Christian Coalition invested a great deal of resources and effort into ensuring that Christian conservative turnout increased. The organization worked extremely hard to build structures that would identify sympathetic voters in certain states and localities, and turn them out on Election Day. They did this for candidates overtly affiliated with them and also for candidates who they either endorsed or just agreed with on important issues. In addition, they also utilized the (p.229)

Table 9.8 Partisanship, Ideology, and Past Voting Behavior of Tea Party Supporters, 2010

Tea Party Supporters

All Respondents

Partisanship

Republican

57%

30%

Independent

38%

36%

Democratic

5%

34%

Ideology

Conservative

75%

37%

Moderate

21%

41%

Liberal

4%

22%

Past voting behavior

Registered to vote

97%

84%

Always or usually voted Republican

69%

32%

Voted equally for both parties

26%

36%

Always or usually voted Democratic

5%

32%

SOURCE: April 2010 New York Times Poll.26

built-in organizational structure of the churches and oversaw “in-pew” voter registration drives. These efforts paid off immediately when, in 1994, the Republican Party finally took control of Congress after four decades of being in the minority.

Even after the millennium, it was essential to the electoral success of the GOP to continue to seek out evangelical Christians and get them to the polls in large numbers. After the 2000 election, Karl Rove believed there were at least three million Christian conservatives across the nation (that is, slam-dunk Bush voters) that did not come to the polls. This calculation led directly to the Bush campaign’s unprecedented strategy in 2004 of virtually ignoring swing voters and simply looking to enlarge their base. With the help of the gay marriage issue, religious conservatives kept Ohio in the Republican column and Bush in the White House.

Tea Party

In terms of partisanship, ideology, and past voting behavior, the current Tea Party movement differs dramatically from both the first and second wave of Christian right organizing. According to data from an April 2010 New York Times survey (presented in Table 9.8), Tea Party supporters are much more likely to be Republican and conservative than (p.230) the rest of the country. Whereas the Times survey found that the country was essentially split between Republicans, Democrats, and independents, the numbers were considerably skewed toward the GOP among Tea Party supporters. Of Tea Party supporters, 57 percent called themselves Republicans. Along with 38 percent claiming independent status, that only leaves 5 percent of Tea Partiers in the Democratic column. In addition, the Tea Party contains twice as many conservatives as are found in the population at large. As far as voting behavior goes, 97 percent of Tea Party supporters are registered to vote, compared to 84 percent of the total population. And when they have voted in the past, it has been mostly for Republican candidates. Once again, among all respondents, we see almost an exact split in thirds between those who always vote Republican, those who have voted for both parties, and those who always vote Democrat. Among Tea Partiers, those numbers are 69 percent, 26 percent, and 5 percent, respectively. Clearly the Tea Party is not representative of our nation when it comes to partisanship, ideology, and voting behavior.

The results of several Gallup polls published in July 2010 provide corroborating evidence for the previous findings. Gallup found that there is significant overlap between the Tea Party movement and those who identify as conservative Republicans. Gallup found that eight out of ten Tea Party supporters are Republican compared with 44 percent of the general population. In addition, Tea Partiers are no more enthusiastic than conservative Republicans—the GOP’s base. And finally, about 80 percent of Tea Party supporters say they will vote for the Republican candidate in their district, slightly lower than the projected 95 percent Republican vote among conservative Republicans but almost double that of the entire electorate. Gallup concludes, “Their similar ideological makeup and views suggest that the Tea Party is more a rebranding of core Republicanism than a new or distinct political movement.”27

Now to anybody who has been even remotely following this fledgling movement, these numbers and conclusions are not very surprising. However, looking at them from the perspective of the relationship between the Tea Party and the Republican establishment, they are potentially very important. Equally well known to the general public is that the Tea Party brought incredible passion and intensity to the 2010 midterm elections. But looking beyond 2010, one has to wonder how much the Republican establishment will feel they need to cater to the Tea Party. They already vote at incredibly high rates for Republican candidates. The odds that these voters will turn to the Democratic (p.231) Party if left unfulfilled by the GOP are highly unlikely. Of course, there is another possibility. The Tea Party and its followers may become disillusioned with the political process and simply stay home: Some might, but the chances that enough will to damage Republican electoral prospects is improbable considering many Tea Party supporters have been consistently voting Republican since before there was a Tea Party.

Comparing the Movements

The electoral gain from acceding to Tea Party demands seems much less than it was when religious conservatives were attempting to reshape the Republican Party in their image. The potential was much greater for the Republicans in the early 1980s and early ‘90s since there were so many more Democrats, independents, and nonvoters among religious conservatives. Plus, those religious conservatives who began voting Republican were not traditionally Republican. If anything, they were historically Democrats. Therefore, the threat was greater that they would fade from the GOP and even go back to the Democrats if their issues were not being addressed adequately.

This does not seem like a problem the Tea Party can consciously address. They could display their independence in the near future by defecting from the Republicans to support Democrats or they could look to form their own party or run independent candidates in 2012 and beyond. But both of these options seem remote when one considers that the Tea Party is widely believed to be either entirely a Republican creation or a completely organic, decentralized, leaderless movement. If the former is true, one cannot expect any considerable movement toward the Democrats, and if the latter is the case, then one can hardly imagine the various grassroots groups across the country coordinating on any sort of a third-party strategy. From the perspective of electoral gain, things do not look good for the Tea Party in their efforts to impact the Republican Party in the long term.

Comparing the Christian Right and the Tea Party: Rhetoric and Nomination Politics

The way our politics plays out these days is far from genteel. Thin skin, an unwillingness to get dirty, and expectations of fair treatment from the other side will not get anybody very far. However, there is something (p.232) to be said for at least some modicum of restraint, that is, an ability to play nicely with others. This can prove problematic for some, especially those involved in a grassroots uprising hoping to fan the flames of indignity for political gain. The squeaky wheel still gets the grease, and increasingly in our politics, the squeaky wheel that speeds through a mud puddle splattering everyone in sight gets even more grease. The third criterion for success measures the ability of political insurgents to smooth out some of their sharp edges and make themselves more palatable to the party they hope to influence. In this section, I compare the first and second waves of Christian right organizing to the Tea Party movement on two aspects of playing nicely: rhetoric and nomination politics. In each case, I argue that a bit of gentility and grace can go a long way in helping political outsiders gain power and influence in the two-party system. The two parties by definition seek to build majorities. Majorities cannot be built if the party is constantly repelling voters with harsh rhetoric, in-your-face tactics, and the nomination of extremist candidates.

Criterion #3: Playing Nicely?

First-Wave Rhetoric

To gain attention and legitimacy, first-wave Christian right leaders came out with both rhetorical guns blazing. During the 1980 presidential campaign, the Religious Roundtable sponsored a National Affairs Briefing that boasted Ronald Reagan as its keynote speaker. The salvos from the stage during the speeches leading up to Reagan’s were inflammatory and immediately branded the movement as intolerant and exclusive. First it was the Reverend James Robison, who complained, “I am sick and tired of hearing about all of the radicals and the perverts and the liberals and the leftists and the communists coming out of the closet. It is time for God’s people to come out of the closet and the churches and change America.”28 Then Reverend Bailey Smith asserted, “It is interesting at great political rallies how you have a Protestant to pray, and a Catholic to pray, and then you have a Jew to pray. With all due respect to these dear people, my friends, God Almighty does not hear the prayer of a Jew.”29 Jerry Falwell said Jimmy Carter “wasn’t a good Christian,” and Pat Robertson told U.S. News and World Report that “we have enough votes to run the country. And when the people say, ‘We’ve had enough,’ we are going to take over.”30 Robertson also threatened the Republican Party during his presidential (p.233) campaign by telling the Republican Party to let his supporters in or they will kick down the door. This overheated rhetoric spawned liberal and moderate criticism. Norman Lear formed the liberal group People for the American Way in direct response to the mobilization of Christian conservatives and the perceived threat they posed. The entire movement was accused of being racist, anti-Semitic, and against the separation of church and state. In many cases, the exact words of Christian right leaders lent credence to these charges. This portrayal damaged the movement’s credibility among the nation at large, and understandably made the GOP resistant to their efforts to influence the party.

Second-Wave Rhetoric

The second wave of political organizing, epitomized by Ralph Reed and his Christian Coalition, made toning down the rhetoric one of their chief goals. They did not get off to a great start as Pat Buchanan and Pat Robertson gave notoriously inflammatory speeches at the 1992 Republican National Convention in Houston, Texas. Buchanan declared famously that there was a “cultural war” going on in America. He condemned the Democratic convention as “that giant masquerade ball up at Madison Square Garden, where 20,000 radicals and liberals came dressed up as moderates and centrists in the greatest single exhibition of cross-dressing in American political history.”31 Buchanan went on, charging that Clinton was hostile to “the Judeo-Christian values and beliefs upon which this America was founded. … The agenda that Clinton and the Democrats would impose on America—abortion on demand, a litmus test for the Supreme Court, homosexual rights, discrimination against religious schools, women in combat units … not the kind of change we can abide in a nation that we can still call God’s country.”32 Robertson warned, “When Bill Clinton talks about family values, he is not talking about either families or values. He is talking about a radical plan to destroy the traditional family and transfer its functions to the federal government.”33 Because of where this rhetoric was being broadcast, the scent of extremism and bigotry stained the Republican Party as well. Reed realized if his movement had any hope of working with the GOP in the future, they would have to tone it down. In January 1993, Reed advised his followers to avoid hostile and intemperate rhetoric: “When stating our own convictions we must acknowledge the opinions of others and the sincerity of their beliefs. We must emphasize inclusion, not exclusion. We must adopt strategies of (p.234) persuasion, not domination. We must be tolerant of diverse views and respectful of those who present them.” Reed made a point of criticizing the notion that religious conservatives speak for God in matters of public policy: “There may be only one way to get to heaven according to one’s theology, but there is probably more than one way to balance the budget or reform health care.”34 While this change in style may not have won over many liberal Democratic converts, it made Republicans much less fearful of associating themselves with this insurgent movement. In sharp contrast to 1992, at the 1996 convention, the Christian right was content to stay out of the spotlight and happy to concentrate on controlling the platform.

Tea Party Rhetoric

The Tea Party has been plagued by intemperate rhetoric that has attracted charges of intolerance and even racism. Much of this occurred during the 2009 town hall protests over the Democratic health care plan. Tea Partiers showed up with guns on their hips and provocative signs in their hands, not to mention armed with harsh insults meant for hurling at politicians attempting to explain their reasons behind supporting the bill. Calling Obama a Muslim, accusing him of not being a U.S. citizen, and suggesting armed rebellion against a “tyrannical Democratic regime” rivals anything ever said by Christian conservatives in terms of combative rhetoric. The anger is fine for firing up the base but it does not bode well for expanding movement support. In fact, this rhetoric has an excellent chance of turning off voters who might otherwise agree with the political sentiments behind the rhetoric. This type of rhetoric is hardly the kind with which a major political party would want to associate.

First-Wave Nomination Campaigns

The importance of nominations has been discussed earlier in this chapter. During the 1980s, religious conservatives consistently backed extremist candidates who ran in-your-face campaigns that alienated their fellow Republicans as well as the rest of the electorate. Several Republican congressional primary campaigns pitted evangelical Christians against establishment candidates. These candidates backed by the Christian right took harsh and uncompromising stands on social issues. They

(p.235) flaunted their orthodox religiosity and portrayed anyone who failed to agree with them on either the issues or the scripture as unfit for office. When the religious conservative candidates won the primary, they often lost the support of moderate Republicans in the general election. When they lost the primary, many times their supporters held a grudge and refused to back the nominee in November. Either way, this proved extremely problematic for the GOP. These internecine battles were one of the main reasons why the Republicans could not gain more ground on the Democrats in Congress even while they were consistently winning presidential elections.

Second-Wave Nomination Campaigns

During the second wave of organizing, there were still nomination fights going on within the Republican Party. However, Christian right leaders made conscious changes in how they were going to approach these battles. For the most part, when Christian right candidates lost primaries in the 1990s, elites backed the nominee and urged their followers to do so as well. This curried favor with local, state, and national party leaders. Furthermore, religious conservatives ceased to reflexively get behind the most socially conservative candidate. They wanted a social conservative but one who could win. When Christian right–backed candidates did gain the nomination, they often downplayed their religiosity and moral conservatism in the general election. Ralph Reed and other leaders utilized what they called stealth campaigns. The idea was to essentially run two campaigns. One campaign would be directed at the base and would reassure them that the candidate was sufficiently prolife, anti–gay rights, and so on. This message would be disseminated through the churches and by local Christian right groups only to those who were friendly to the cause. A separate campaign was waged for the media and the general electorate. Here, candidates would focus on more broadly popular issues like cutting taxes and spending. They did not have to wear their morality on their sleeve because the base did not have to see it to know it was there.

Tea Party Nomination Campaigns

Throughout the tumultuous primary season of 2010, we saw many examples of Tea Party–backed candidates taking on establishment (p.236) Republicans with an uncompromising ideology and a brash style. Rand Paul shocked the nation with his easy victory over Mitch McConnell’s protégé Trey Grayson in Kentucky. Like his father, Paul appears to be a staunch libertarian fighting to drastically limit the role of the federal government. He was one of the first Senate candidates to ride the wave of Tea Party enthusiasm to victory, yet soon after his triumph he was in the middle of a controversy about his position on the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In Alaska, armed with a high-profile endorsement from Sarah Palin, Joe Miller upset an incumbent senator and member of one of Alaska’s political royal families, Lisa Murkowski. Despite the primary victory, his prospects in the general election were hurt by his strong belief in eschewing federal money for a state that has lived off of it since its admittance to the union. Rand Paul was able to overcome his relatively extreme views to win the general election; however, Joe Miller was not so fortunate falling to Murkowski’s surprising write-in campaign.

In addition to issue positions that appear to be far from the median voter, other candidates displayed a stunning lack of experience that led to repeated gaffes and may have ultimately kept the Republicans from regaining control of the Senate. With help from Tea Partiers across the country, Christine O’Donnell came from out of nowhere in Delaware to defeat a man who had been winning statewide elections for decades. But her past pronouncements on celibacy, masturbation, evolution, and witchcraft essentially handed this seat to the Democrats. In Nevada, Sharron Angle proved to be one of the few people who could singlehandedly resurrect Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s hopes of getting reelected. Angle once pushed for a prison rehabilitation program modeled on the teachings of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. She also suggested it might be a good idea to go back to the days when patients bartered with their doctors for health care. Both O’Donnell and Angle were defeated on Election Day in races that Republicans were favored to win prior to their nominations.

These are just a few examples of U.S. Senate candidates who look a lot like early Christian right candidates. Their extremist views have been broadcast loud and clear to a bemused and sometimes dumbfounded electorate. As of this writing, there is no study that systematically looks at how many independents and moderate Republicans pulled the Democratic lever because they were turned off by these candidates. But in such a closely divided electorate and U.S. Senate, losing even relatively small numbers of voters can be the difference between taking over the Senate and staying in the minority.

(p.237) Conclusion

The story of the Tea Party and how it ultimately will fit into the Republican Party is far from over. The passionate belief in fiscal responsibility unleashed by this movement and manifested in the 2010 midterm elections will not soon fade. However, I would argue the Tea Party got off to a rocky start in 2011. Many pundits focused more on the high-profile races lost by Tea Party candidates than those they won. The new RNC chairman seems to be friendly to the movement but the Republican congressional leadership remains firmly in the hands of establishment leaders who figure to be at least somewhat resistant to the rabidly conservative cries of the Tea Party–supported freshmen.

If the Tea Party has any designs on significantly influencing American politics through the Republican Party, they will have to make changes—changes similar to those the Christian right made in the 1990s. Finding a way to make their specific policy proposals palatable to a larger segment of the population is the first adjustment that should be made. Abolishing the Department of Education and repealing the Fourteenth Amendment figure to be nonstarters and only serve to crystallize the extremist nature of the movement to the general public. Compromises similar to those religious conservatives sought on abortion will keep their supporters motivated while tagging those who oppose the compromises as out of the mainstream.

In the Tea Party’s favor, I believe that compromising over fiscal issues that are not always clearly understood by the electorate, and therefore able to be spun as less of a compromise than they actually might be, is not as difficult as compromising on abortion, which for many is seen as a life-or-death, “good versus evil” type of an issue. Another difference between the Tea Party and the Christian right that bodes well for the former is that while religious conservatives had to change the entire issue focus of the GOP in the 1980s and 1990s, the current Republican Party already is focused on fiscal conservatism. The Tea Party’s goal should simply be to shift them further to the right on these issues.

Finally, the Tea Party will have to make a decision regarding the kinds of Republican candidates they will support in the future. In 2012, the Tea Party once again mounted several challenges to incumbent Republican senators who they view as insufficiently conservative. The question is whether the 2012 election cycle will be a repeat of 2010 when Tea Party–backed insurgents knocked off GOP incumbents only to be deemed unfit for office and defeated by Democrats in the general (p.238) election. With control of the Senate hanging in the balance, there exists the real possibility that the Tea Party and its uncompromising nature will stand in the way of a Republican senatorial majority. That kind of an outcome surely does not bode well for the long-term prospects of the Tea Party, either within the Republican Party, or within American politics as a whole.

Notes

(1.) E. E. Schattschneider, Party Government (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1942), 1.

(2.) Robert Allen Rutland, The Democrats: From Jefferson to Clinton (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1995), 3.

(3.) Schattschneider, Party Government, 35.

(4.) Marty Cohen, David Karol, Hans Noel, and John Zaller, The Party Decides (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008), 30.

(5.) On the 1952 Republican presidential nominating campaign, see Richard Norton Smith, Thomas E. Dewey and His Times (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1982); and Stephen E. Ambrose, Eisenhower: Soldier, General of the Army, President-Elect 1890–1952 (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1983).

(6.) On the 1964 Republican presidential nominating campaign, see Theodore H. White, The Making of the President, 1964 (New York: Atheneum, 1965); and Nicol C. Rae, The Decline and Fall of the Liberal Republicans: From 1952 to the Present (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989).

(7.) A change in groups was not the only standard for delineating the two waves. As I explain later in the chapter, the tactics and strategies of the second wave differed dramatically from those of the first wave.

(8.) The word evangelical comes from the Greek euangelion, which means “good news.” Evangelicalism came to symbolize the revival movements sweeping the nation through the various Great Awakenings in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. These revival meetings consisted of emotionally charged preaching and singing that sought to arouse an immediate experience of conversion or rededication to the Christian faith. Preachers actively worked to evangelize, to give the “good news” to others—the “good news” being the existence of the savior Jesus Christ. People were encouraged to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and personal savior. This was seen as the only way to save one’s soul. The idea was that Jesus Christ would return to earth and those who accepted Him would be saved and those who hadn’t would be damned. This new acceptance, conversion, or rededication to the Christian faith was known as a born-again experience. See Duane Oldfield, The Right and the Righteous: The Christian Right Confronts the Republican Party (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 1996); and Steve Bruce, The Rise and Fall of the New Christian Right (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988).

(9.) Oldfield, The Right and the RighteousBruce, The Rise and Fall of the New Christian RightDavid Bromley and Anson Shupe, New Christian Politics (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1984).

(p.239) (10.) On the new right’s involvement with the first wave of Christian right organizing and the Moral Majority in particular, see Bromley and Shupe, New Christian Politics; Sara Diamond, Spiritual Warfare: The Politics of the Christian Right (Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 1999); Matthew Moen, The Transformation of the Christian Right (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1992); and Jeffrey Hadden and Charles Swann, Prime Time Preachers: The Rising Power of Televangelism (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishers, 1981).

(11.) Oldfield, The Right and the Righteous; and Sara Diamond, Roads to Dominion: Right-Wing Movements and Political Power in the United States (New York: The Guilford Press, 1995).

(12.) Allen Hertzke, Echoes of Discontent: Jesse Jackson, Pat Robertson, and the Resurgence of Populism (Washington, DC: CQ Press, 1993); and James Penning, “Pat Robertson and the GOP: 1988 and Beyond,” Sociology of Religion 55 (1994): 327–44.

(13.) Justin Watson, The Christian Coalition: Dreams of Restoration, Demands of Recognition (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1997).

(14.) The American National Election Studies (www.electionstudies.org). The ANES Guide to Public Opinion and Electoral Behavior (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan, Center for Political Studies [producer and distributor]).

Using the Bible question as opposed to religious denomination makes sense because, in the era of the “culture wars,” moral appeals are widely believed to cross traditional religious barriers. (The “culture war” idea was proposed by James Davison Hunter, Culture Wars [New York: Basic Books, 1991].) In addition, one is not really considered an evangelical or fundamentalist Christian if he or she has not had a born-again experience and does not believe the Bible is the literal word of God. Several notable studies of religion and politics rely heavily on attitudes toward the Bible. Geoffrey Layman, The Great Divide (New York: Columbia University Press, 2001); and Lyman Kellstedt and Corwin Smidt, “Doctrinal Beliefs and Political Behavior: Views of the Bible,” in Rediscovering (p.240) the Religious Factor in Politics, ed. David Leege and Lyman Kellstedt (Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, 1993), 177–98, are two among many studies that utilize the NES questions on the Bible. For discussions of the wording change of the Bible question, see Ted Jelen, “Biblical Literalism and Inerrancy: Does the Difference Make a Difference?” Sociological Analysis 50 (1989): 421–29; and Ted Jelen, Clyde Wilcox, and Corwin Smidt, “Biblical Literalism and Inerrancy: A Methodological Analysis,” in Sociological Analysis 51 (1990): 307–13. I conducted a similar analysis using self-reported evangelicals and supporters of the Moral Majority as the target group. The results were extremely similar.

(15.) In these cases, the survey’s classification of “Tea Party supporter” was self-evident.

(16.) Ed Dobson, Edward Hindson, and Jerry Falwell, The Fundamentalist Phenomenon: The Resurgence of Conservative Christianity (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing, 1986).

(17.) This number is important on its own. Out of the most pro-life groups in the country, only one in five supported a complete ban on abortion. It is no wonder then that a constitutional amendment banning abortion got nowhere.

(18.) On abortion: There has been some discussion about abortion during recent years. Which one of the opinions on this page best agrees with your view? (1) By law, abortion should never be permitted; (2) the law should permit abortion only in cases of rape, incest, or when the woman’s life is in danger; (3) The law should permit abortion for reasons other than rape, incest, or danger to the woman’s life, but only after the need for the abortion has been clearly established; or (4) by law, a woman should always be able to obtain an abortion as a matter of personal choice. On the ERA: Do you approve or disapprove of the proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution, sometimes called the ERA amendment? (1) Approve; or (5) disapprove.

(19.) Weyrich said, “As conservatives we kid ourselves if we think the president’s reelection in 1984 is going to deliver major gains to our movement” (reprinted in Diamond, Spiritual Warfare, 64–65). Viguerie said, “Alas, like Jimmy Carter, the man he defeated and replaced, Ronald Reagan has turned his back on the populist cause” (reprinted in Oldfield, The Right and the Righteous, 120).

(20.) On abortion: Same as in 1980. On parental consent, on state funds, and on spousal notification: Would you favor or oppose (strongly or not strongly) a law in your state that would require parental consent before a teenager under eighteen can have an abortion/allow the use of government funds to help pay for the costs of abortion for women who cannot afford them/require a married woman to notify her husband before she can have an abortion? (1) Favor strongly; (2) favor not strongly; (3) oppose not strongly; or (4) oppose strongly. Gays in the military and gay adoption: Do you feel strongly or not strongly that homosexuals should be allowed to serve in the United States Armed Forces/legally permitted to adopt children? (1) Feel strongly should be allowed; (2) feel not strongly should be allowed; (3) feel not strongly should not be allowed; or (4) feel strongly should not be allowed. Prayer in public schools: Which of the following views comes closest to your opinion on the issue of school prayer? (1) By law, prayers should not be allowed in public schools; (2) the law should (p.241) allow public schools to schedule time when children can pray silently if they want to; (3) the law should allow public schools to schedule time when children, as a group, can say a general prayer not tied to a particular religious faith; or (4) by law, public schools should schedule a time when all children would say a chosen Christian prayer.

(21.) Jeffrey M. Jones, “Debt, Government Power among Tea Party Supporters’ Top Concerns,” July 5, 2010, accessed at www.gallup.com.

(22.) “Polling the Tea Party,” April 14, 2010, accessed at www.nytimes.com.

(23.) See Table 8.3 in Abramowitz, Chapter 8 in this volume.

(24.) In a forthcoming publication, I focus on the process by which Christian conservative activists infiltrated, and in some cases took over state and local Republican Party structures. As a result, when George W. Bush entered the White House, social conservatives were considered a full-fledged party faction with significant influence over GOP candidates, platforms, and strategies. Their place alongside economic conservatives and neoconservatives was secured.

(25.) Clyde Wilcox, God’s Warriors: The Christian Right in Twentieth-Century America (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991), 121.

(26.) “Polling the Tea Party,” April 14, 2010, accessed at www.nytimes.com.

(27.) Frank Newport, “Tea Party Supporters Overlap Republican Base,” July 2, 2010, www.gallup.com.

(28.) Howell Raines, “Reagan Backs Evangelicals in Their Political Activities,” New York Times, August 23, 1980, 8.

(29.) “Baptist Leader Criticized for Statement about Jews,” New York Times, September 18, 1980, A18.

(30.) “Preachers in Politics,” U.S. News and World Report, September 24, 1979, 37.

(31.) Diamond, Roads to Dominion, 292.

(32.) Richard Wolf, “Reagan, Buchanan Ignite Party,” USA Today, August 18, 1992, 3A.

(33.) Oldfield, The Right and the Righteous, 204.

(34.) Quotes come from Christian American, which was an internal publication of the Christian Coalition.

Notes:

(1.) E. E. Schattschneider, Party Government (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1942), 1.

(2.) Robert Allen Rutland, The Democrats: From Jefferson to Clinton (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1995), 3.

(4.) Marty Cohen, David Karol, Hans Noel, and John Zaller, The Party Decides (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008), 30.

(5.) On the 1952 Republican presidential nominating campaign, see Richard Norton Smith, Thomas E. Dewey and His Times (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1982); and Stephen E. Ambrose, Eisenhower: Soldier, General of the Army, President-Elect 1890–1952 (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1983).

(6.) On the 1964 Republican presidential nominating campaign, see Theodore H. White, The Making of the President, 1964 (New York: Atheneum, 1965); and Nicol C. Rae, The Decline and Fall of the Liberal Republicans: From 1952 to the Present (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989).

(7.) A change in groups was not the only standard for delineating the two waves. As I explain later in the chapter, the tactics and strategies of the second wave differed dramatically from those of the first wave.

(8.) The word evangelical comes from the Greek euangelion, which means “good news.” Evangelicalism came to symbolize the revival movements sweeping the nation through the various Great Awakenings in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. These revival meetings consisted of emotionally charged preaching and singing that sought to arouse an immediate experience of conversion or rededication to the Christian faith. Preachers actively worked to evangelize, to give the “good news” to others—the “good news” being the existence of the savior Jesus Christ. People were encouraged to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and personal savior. This was seen as the only way to save one’s soul. The idea was that Jesus Christ would return to earth and those who accepted Him would be saved and those who hadn’t would be damned. This new acceptance, conversion, or rededication to the Christian faith was known as a born-again experience. See Duane Oldfield, The Right and the Righteous: The Christian Right Confronts the Republican Party (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 1996); and Steve Bruce, The Rise and Fall of the New Christian Right (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988).

(9.) Oldfield, The Right and the RighteousBruce, The Rise and Fall of the New Christian RightDavid Bromley and Anson Shupe, New Christian Politics (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1984).

(p.239) (10.) On the new right’s involvement with the first wave of Christian right organizing and the Moral Majority in particular, see Bromley and Shupe, New Christian Politics; Sara Diamond, Spiritual Warfare: The Politics of the Christian Right (Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 1999); Matthew Moen, The Transformation of the Christian Right (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1992); and Jeffrey Hadden and Charles Swann, Prime Time Preachers: The Rising Power of Televangelism (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishers, 1981).

(11.) Oldfield, The Right and the Righteous; and Sara Diamond, Roads to Dominion: Right-Wing Movements and Political Power in the United States (New York: The Guilford Press, 1995).

(12.) Allen Hertzke, Echoes of Discontent: Jesse Jackson, Pat Robertson, and the Resurgence of Populism (Washington, DC: CQ Press, 1993); and James Penning, “Pat Robertson and the GOP: 1988 and Beyond,” Sociology of Religion 55 (1994): 327–44.

(13.) Justin Watson, The Christian Coalition: Dreams of Restoration, Demands of Recognition (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1997).

(14.) The American National Election Studies (www.electionstudies.org). The ANES Guide to Public Opinion and Electoral Behavior (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan, Center for Political Studies [producer and distributor]).

Using the Bible question as opposed to religious denomination makes sense because, in the era of the “culture wars,” moral appeals are widely believed to cross traditional religious barriers. (The “culture war” idea was proposed by James Davison Hunter, Culture Wars [New York: Basic Books, 1991].) In addition, one is not really considered an evangelical or fundamentalist Christian if he or she has not had a born-again experience and does not believe the Bible is the literal word of God. Several notable studies of religion and politics rely heavily on attitudes toward the Bible. Geoffrey Layman, The Great Divide (New York: Columbia University Press, 2001); and Lyman Kellstedt and Corwin Smidt, “Doctrinal Beliefs and Political Behavior: Views of the Bible,” in Rediscovering (p.240) the Religious Factor in Politics, ed. David Leege and Lyman Kellstedt (Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, 1993), 177–98, are two among many studies that utilize the NES questions on the Bible. For discussions of the wording change of the Bible question, see Ted Jelen, “Biblical Literalism and Inerrancy: Does the Difference Make a Difference?” Sociological Analysis 50 (1989): 421–29; and Ted Jelen, Clyde Wilcox, and Corwin Smidt, “Biblical Literalism and Inerrancy: A Methodological Analysis,” in Sociological Analysis 51 (1990): 307–13. I conducted a similar analysis using self-reported evangelicals and supporters of the Moral Majority as the target group. The results were extremely similar.

(15.) In these cases, the survey’s classification of “Tea Party supporter” was self-evident.

(18.) On abortion: There has been some discussion about abortion during recent years. Which one of the opinions on this page best agrees with your view? (1) By law, abortion should never be permitted; (2) the law should permit abortion only in cases of rape, incest, or when the woman’s life is in danger; (3) The law should permit abortion for reasons other than rape, incest, or danger to the woman’s life, but only after the need for the abortion has been clearly established; or (4) by law, a woman should always be able to obtain an abortion as a matter of personal choice. On the ERA: Do you approve or disapprove of the proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution, sometimes called the ERA amendment? (1) Approve; or (5) disapprove.

(16.) Ed Dobson, Edward Hindson, and Jerry Falwell, The Fundamentalist Phenomenon: The Resurgence of Conservative Christianity (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing, 1986).

(17.) This number is important on its own. Out of the most pro-life groups in the country, only one in five supported a complete ban on abortion. It is no wonder then that a constitutional amendment banning abortion got nowhere.

(19.) Weyrich said, “As conservatives we kid ourselves if we think the president’s reelection in 1984 is going to deliver major gains to our movement” (reprinted in Diamond, Spiritual Warfare, 64–65). Viguerie said, “Alas, like Jimmy Carter, the man he defeated and replaced, Ronald Reagan has turned his back on the populist cause” (reprinted in Oldfield, The Right and the Righteous, 120).

(20.) On abortion: Same as in 1980. On parental consent, on state funds, and on spousal notification: Would you favor or oppose (strongly or not strongly) a law in your state that would require parental consent before a teenager under eighteen can have an abortion/allow the use of government funds to help pay for the costs of abortion for women who cannot afford them/require a married woman to notify her husband before she can have an abortion? (1) Favor strongly; (2) favor not strongly; (3) oppose not strongly; or (4) oppose strongly. Gays in the military and gay adoption: Do you feel strongly or not strongly that homosexuals should be allowed to serve in the United States Armed Forces/legally permitted to adopt children? (1) Feel strongly should be allowed; (2) feel not strongly should be allowed; (3) feel not strongly should not be allowed; or (4) feel strongly should not be allowed. Prayer in public schools: Which of the following views comes closest to your opinion on the issue of school prayer? (1) By law, prayers should not be allowed in public schools; (2) the law should (p.241) allow public schools to schedule time when children can pray silently if they want to; (3) the law should allow public schools to schedule time when children, as a group, can say a general prayer not tied to a particular religious faith; or (4) by law, public schools should schedule a time when all children would say a chosen Christian prayer.

(21.) Jeffrey M. Jones, “Debt, Government Power among Tea Party Supporters’ Top Concerns,” July 5, 2010, accessed at www.gallup.com.

(22.) “Polling the Tea Party,” April 14, 2010, accessed at www.nytimes.com.

(23.) See Table 8.3 in Abramowitz, Chapter 8 in this volume.

(24.) In a forthcoming publication, I focus on the process by which Christian conservative activists infiltrated, and in some cases took over state and local Republican Party structures. As a result, when George W. Bush entered the White House, social conservatives were considered a full-fledged party faction with significant influence over GOP candidates, platforms, and strategies. Their place alongside economic conservatives and neoconservatives was secured.

(25.) Clyde Wilcox, God’s Warriors: The Christian Right in Twentieth-Century America (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991), 121.

(26.) “Polling the Tea Party,” April 14, 2010, accessed at www.nytimes.com.

(27.) Frank Newport, “Tea Party Supporters Overlap Republican Base,” July 2, 2010, www.gallup.com.

(28.) Howell Raines, “Reagan Backs Evangelicals in Their Political Activities,” New York Times, August 23, 1980, 8.

(29.) “Baptist Leader Criticized for Statement about Jews,” New York Times, September 18, 1980, A18.

(30.) “Preachers in Politics,” U.S. News and World Report, September 24, 1979, 37.

(32.) Richard Wolf, “Reagan, Buchanan Ignite Party,” USA Today, August 18, 1992, 3A.

(34.) Quotes come from Christian American, which was an internal publication of the Christian Coalition.