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Oh, the Social Conservatives and Tea Partiers Can Be Friends

Ben Smith has a great write-up on something I’ve been talking about for a while: tension between the social conservative activists who provided the muscle for the Reagan/Bush Republican coalition and the Tea Party activists who, suddenly, have become the driving force of the party.

It’s hard to get a handle on, because some of the tension is happening in high-level discussions among elite Republicans, while some — possibly less — is happening in local parties where newly active Tea Partiers are challenging the authority of social conservatives who’ve long dominated their local GOP. And it’s hard to assess how much tension there is because victory tends to build bridges. There was some Tea Party bitterness at the involvement of social conservatives — the Susan B. Anthony List, Generation Joshua — in Doug Hoffman’s NY-23 race, because Hoffman lost and activists wondered if voters rejected the “outsider” involvement. But when everyone teamed up for Scott Brown, and he won, voila — no tension.

The biggest insight I see in this piece is that some social conservatives recoil at the Tea Parties’ “vitriolic attacks on Obama” — and while Tea Partiers bristle at the suggestion that they’re making ad hominem attacks, even the “Obama is enacting a century-old plot to destroy America” Glenn Beck-style rhetoric is too much for some social cons. Smith quotes Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission:

Obama, he said “provides a tremendously positive role model for tens of millions of African-American men” and “seems demonstrably fond of his wife and children, which is a positive role model for people of all ethnicities.”

“I would want to be free to attack the character of President Clinton — but this guy, he gives every indication of being a decent guy,” Land said.

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