Will Mixing Religion and Politics Be the Tea Party’s Downfall?


A fascinating New York Times op-ed from scholars Robert Putnam and David Campbell uses survey data from 2006 and earlier this summer to explain the Tea Party’s newfound unpopularity.  The Tea Party, they claim, was not born from the Great Recession — rather, its supporters were brought together by their social conservatism and desire to see religion integrated into politics.  This religious fervor, which drives the popularity of candidates like Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry, will be the Tea Party’s downfall, at least according to Putnam and Campbell.

“It is precisely this infusion of religion into politics that most Americans increasingly oppose,” they explained. “While over the last five years Americans have become slightly more conservative economically, they have swung even further in opposition to mingling religion and politics. It thus makes sense that the Tea Party ranks alongside the Christian Right in unpopularity.”

This conclusion isn’t entirely new.  Last fall, the Public Religion Research Institute released a report, showing that nearly half of the Tea Party identified with the Christian conservative movement.  In the press release, PRRI observed, “They are mostly social conservatives, not libertarians on social issues. Nearly two-thirds (63%) say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases, and less than 1-in-5 (18%) support allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry.”

And after attending two years of Tea Party functions, The Awl’s Abe Sauer concludes: “I finally know what the Tea Party wants: A Christian nation.”

If the Tea Party is on the decline, that’s good news for people who don’t see a Christian theocracy as a good future for the United States.  But, as Sarah Posner observes at Religion Dispatches, it’s probably too early to trumpet the demise of the religious right, even if the Tea Party’s influence is beginning to fade.  ”The ‘religious right is dead’ obituary is frequently written,” Posner writes, “but always turns out to be wrong.”

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More Americans Strongly Disapprove of the Tea Party

Democrats Now Lead Republicans on Generic Ballot

30,000 Christians Pray With Perry for “Nation in Crisis”

Photo from Fibonacci Blue via flickr.


Charlene Rush
Charlene Rush6 years ago

We must, continually, be cognizant of the fact, that this has never been, about _religion_. Religion is the excuse and I find the far-right, is anything BUT religious. At the very least, they are not Christians, in behavior.
It is about CONTROL over the masses. ('We have a direct line to god and we know what he is thinking, and you mustn't make his angry.')

Believing in god is one thing, but believing that ANY particular person or group, speaks for our maker, is another story, altogether. Only the very gullible and/or desperate fall for this one.

Glenn M.
Glenn Meyer6 years ago

Cutting spending on, so called, entitlements is ineffective for addressing the deficit. Cutting programs that support the low and middle class will further strain both who don’t even receive lower prices as a result of the U.S. job losses and create a disconnect that will end in another financial collapse. The justification for attacking government benefits as opposed to raising taxes is the creation of jobs. But where?

Corporations have over-powered our government which now believes that out-sourcing and off-shoring of U.S. jobs is inevitable and necessary with expectations that the middle class should fall on their swords. It is the underlying cause of the financial collapse and borders on national security with the loss of our middle class tax base. Yet, this nation does nothing, not even demand it be restricted by whatever method. International businesses are doing the UN-AMERICAN activity of destroying U.S. salaries, U.S. businesses that hire in the U.S., and as an end result, destroying the U.S. marketplace while still demanding BUSINESS ENTITLEMENTS and protections for themselves.

Infrastructure spending and tax breaks will not replace enough jobs to keep up with the hemorrhaging loss of U.S. jobs from out-sourcing over seas. Neither party will do anything about it unless we begin grass roots efforts to protest out-sourcing and off-shoring of U.S. jobs. If nothing is done we will deserve what we get and it will get a lot worse before it gets better

Deborah L.
Deborah Lashever6 years ago

I do not know them personally but I know them from who and what they support. As far as I can tell, they may be the nicest people in the world but they stand for things that are in direct opposition to what is fair and just for all people.

I wish they and those like them would take a real look at what their stance would mean in the real world and what immense suffering it would create (and is creating). I wish they would read their own Bible, especially the parts about loving they neighbor, turning the other cheek, caring for the needy, casting the first stone only if you are without sin yourself, simple things like that. The teachings that Christ actually brought, in His wisdom, to guide us. I wish they would remeber those instead of what they are making up or taking out of context.

Michele T.
Michele T.6 years ago

This is what scares me the most about the Tea Party- their mixing of their religious and political agenda. However, I can at least hope that the majority of Americans are against this.

Michael M.
Michael M6 years ago

T-baggers have got to be the most unpatriotic and un-American fools known to history. If they were capable of reading the US Constitution (or even better, UNDERSTAND the US Constitution) it clearly states there is NO OFFICIAL religion of the US. What part of the 1st Amendment of the Constitution do these morons do not understand?

Tara Jane Hampton

Interesting observations from some of the previous posters. And it is apparent that some of you have never attended a Tea Party meeting or taken the time to sit down and have a chat with a Tea Party member.

In my travels around this country I have met many members, both on the local and national level. The people I have met are of many religions, political parties, different careers, different economic backgrounds, different races and a wide spectrum of ages -- from teens to retired people.

The people I have met have never, in any interview espoused a desire for this country or the Tea Party organization to tout religion in any form. They are not a religious organization and certainly not to be compared with the Taliban.

Most of the people I've met are just concerned citizens of this country who are fed up with Washington and the direction of this administration. Many are small business owners who are unable to hire or have the ability to add R & D to their company because their suppliers are all in a "wait and see" attitude. And there are a percentage of them who are unemployed and are concerned about their futures. Another percentage are college graduates who are unable to find positions in their chosen fields.

Although I am not a Tea Party member, I do believe that the citizens of this country who belong and the organization itself are getting a bad rap from Washington and the media in this country.

My suggestion - take it or leave it - is to

teresa royer
Terry Royer6 years ago

the tea party is our american taliban....soo scary !!!!! the infusion of religion into politics is and always will be BAD!!!!!!!!!

Morgan Getham
Morgan Getham6 years ago

This entire analysis makes the same fundamental mistake that so many such have made before. It confuses the NATIONAL "Tea Party" organizations with the local groups. In fact, the local Tea Party groups are not well organized but are in fact voluntary associations of like-minded voters who coalesce around certain issues. And these usually ARE economic in nature. While some people may ATTEND the "conventions" of the state and national groups, they cannot be said to represent their local groups, because there is usually nobody who would be in a position to authorize them to do so. The main purpose for most of the attendees is usually (from my experience ... I know members of several Tea Party groups in my community and nearby) to exchange ideas of effective organizing methods and strategies. The national groups are locally often regarded with some degree of suspicion, in fact.

For more information about the real strength of the Tea Parties, read Rand Paul's Book "The Tea Party goes to Washington. He was THE major Tea Party standard bearer and success story in the last election, and like his father is first and foremost a libertarian.

The Tea Party really WAS born because people simply got tired of BOTH parties handing bailouts to corporations and banks, and then seeing their executives going back to getting their million-dollar bonuses while all they got was forclosure notices and pink slips. Anybody the Tea Party could reach, either in the primary or in the genera

Robert F.

Warning! Religious fundamentalists WILL NOT go away. The Tea Party is a resurrection of the Moral Majority and their run for president behind Pat Robinson. It will return always in new guise, and more powerful/devious. The reason is that there is an emotional split in us that science cannot answer. Nor can a SECULAR government that feeds us with the ideology of consumerism. We are mythic beings, and we need a mythology to give our life meaning. Jungian and Post Jungian therapies understand this.

Return to a Christian theocracy would be disastrous, but it could very easily be coming. The Tea Party today has more political support than the Moral Majority had 20 years ago. The answer, whether we like it or not, is to re-establish a sense of the spiritual in our national life. Our founding fathers were spiritual in this. Rosicrucians and Freemasons. This is NOT religion. It can be a new scientific understanding of the spiritual, or unseen, in the universe, a direction that a handful of physicists are even now considering. Make our liberal views more spiritual and meaningful than the greedy and limited views of the fearful right. Take away their moral superiority. Actively redefine what it means to be Christian as it embraces Islam, Buddhism, Native American teachings as one, in worldwide spiritual brotherhood.

Linda T.
Linda T6 years ago

Same ole Republican Party.