An Invitation to Tea: 'Values Voter' Summiteers Seek Marriage of Convenience with Tea Party Activists in Advance of November Elections
Boston, Rob, Church & State
Three days after stunning the political world with her upset victory over Republican establishment candidate Mike Castle in Delaware, U.S. Senate hopeful Christine O'Donnell traveled to Washington, D.C., to bask in the Religious Right's adoration.
The event was the Values Voter Summit, an annual conference sponsored by the Family Research Council (FRC) and allied organizations, and O'Donnell was in her element.
Beaming before a 2,000-plus crowd at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, O'Donnell unleashed a stinging attack on the "ruling class elites" whom, she said, are determined to drag down the country.
"The small elite don't get us," O'Donnell told the crowd. "They call us wacky. They call us wing-nuts. We call us, 'We the people.' "
"They don't get it," she continued during the Sept. 17-18 confab. "We're not trying to take back our country. We ARE our country. We have always been in charge."
The fired-up crowd couldn't get enough of her. O'Donnell received a hero's welcome, and even before she appeared on stage, speakers were dropping her name as an example of what Tea Partiers and Religious Right stalwarts can do when they work together.
The partnership between the two movements found a perfect candidate in O'Donnell, a Religious Right activist long before she became identified with the Tea Party. Her rapid ascension was reminiscent of 2008, when a previously little-known Alaska governor also excited Summit attendees. In fact, O'Donnell at times sounded like a poor man's Sarah Palin--delivering lots of applause-generating rhetoric that captivated the ultra-conservative crowd.
Firmly convinced that President Barack Obama, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid are determined to destroy the country, Summit attendees reveled in the abuse heaped on the trio, to them a satanic anti-Trinity. At times it was hard to tell whom this crowd despised more--Obama, Pelosi and Reid or gays and Muslims.
The parade of enemies and white-hot anti-government rage had a purpose. Religious Right strategists clearly have big plans: romance the Tea Party and either co-opt or merge with that movement. Build an ultra-conservative majority. Mobilize fundamentalist churches. Cruise to victory on Election Day.
It won't work unless the Tea Party plays along. Thus, the event had the feel of a two-day valentine to that loosely organized movement, with Summit organizers working hard to convince Tea Partiers that common ground exists.
The goal may not be too hard to achieve. According to a Zogby/O'Leary Poll, most Tea Party activists already share the Religious Right's view of Obama. A whopping 71 percent said they do not believe the president has strong Christian values and that the values he does have are unacceptable.
That left Summit speakers with the task of assuring the Tea Party that the Religious Right activists share their fiscal outlook. So many speakers addressed this theme that it's hard to believe it wasn't choreographed.
"Ours is not so much a fiscal crisis, it is a family crisis," asserted former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. He asserted that family breakdown leads to poverty and spawns the far-right bogeyman of Big Government.
U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) sounded similar themes. He told attendees, "You cannot be a real fiscal conservative if you don't understand the importance of having a culture that is based on values."
Government programs designed to help the poor, DeMint asserted, just make things worse. What people in need require is God, he said.
"If you look at the inner city, you see that a lot of drugs are bought with welfare money or food stamps," DeMint said. Only people who are accountable to God, he added, have the type of strong work ethic needed to build a vibrant economy.
"When you get big government," he observed, "you're going to have a little God. …