t’s a match made in political heaven – evangelical Christians and the Tea Party. Starting in 2010, the two huge conservative flanks started coming together, forming what Christian Broadcasting Network Chief Political correspondent David Brody calls the “Teavangelical” movement.
Sure, the Tea Party was supposed to be all about money matters, its name an acronym for “taxed enough already.” The conventional wisdom was that the group didn’t care much about social issues like gay marriage and abortion – those were the province of evangelicals.
But it turns out that the two groups overlap – a lot. That was one of the takeways from a Wednesday National Press Club panel I sat on that was tied the release of Brody’s new book, “The Teavangelicals: The Inside Story of How the Evangelicals and the Tea Party are Taking Back America.”
Here are 5 reasons why should care about “Teavangelicals”:
1. Remember 2010?
In the 2010 midterm elections, the Tea Party helped the Republicans take back control of the House of Representatives. And evangelicals made up a big part of that group. According to a September 2010 poll by the Public Religion Research Institute, nearly half of self-identified Tea Partiers in 2010 said they were part of the Religious Right or the conservative Christian movement.
2. They might swing the presidential election for Mitt Romney.
Ralph Reed’s group, the Faith and Freedom Coalition, is the prototypical Teavangelical group, working to ensure that the Tea Party and evangelicals play nice together. Reed has long been an evangelical whisper for politicians and Brody writes that he has the cell phone numbers of 13 million evangelical voters. Sounds like a strong ground game.
3. Teavangelicals made the GOP primaries more interesting.
2012 was supposed to be Mitt Romney’s year. He’d run once before and the GOP establishment liked him. But he was not an early favorite of the Teavangelicals, who variously rallied around Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Rick Perry and Rick Santorum. When those politicians talked about the free market and opposing abortion with equal gusto it was music to Teavangelical ears. At the press club panel on Wednesday, National Review columnist Robert Costa said Santorum’s Iowa caucuses win testified to the Teavangelical power.
4. They’re planning to stick around for a while.
The Tea Party may have disappeared from national headlines, but they’re active at the grassroots. Brody said that Teavangelicals are winning seats on school boards, city councils, and county commissions. “The Teavangelicals have realized it’s nice to get on FOX News and hold up a sign and be on the Sean Hannity show, but that’s not going to get it done,” he said. “Ultimately you have to start at the bottom up.” He says small-time local positions are proving grounds for the next generation of GOP leadership.
5. They’ll be a crossword puzzle clue soon.
Brody coined the term Teavangelical the day after the 2010 midterm elections, when we were both at a press conference organized by the Faith and Freedom coalition. Ralph Reed’s involvement means the Teavangelical concept has legs. It’s only a matter of time before it becomes a crossword puzzle clue.
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