A hardcore religious right activist who cut his teeth working with the American Family Association, the Christian Coalition, and former Family Research Council head Gary Bauer, says elements of the tea party movement are like Johnnies-come-lately who don’t understand the central role Christians play in the conservative movement.
The tea party movement, said Allen Hardage in an interview with RD, needs to focus on elevating and unifying around people who can serve as leaders, if it is to “follow the example of the founders.” Displaying the “Christian nation” ideology that is a cornerstone of the religious right, he added, “you cannot restore this country to the founding fathers’ vision and exclude the fact that they understood our rights and ability to grow as a nation from our reverence to God.”
Hardage is the founder of tvTownhall, a web site which broadcast a counter-State of the Union earlier this month and plans to broadcast other programs like Ron Luce’s Battle Cry, National Day of Prayer events, as well as videos by citizen journalists of congressional and candidate town halls. Hardage also organized last month’s National Strike: “we the people strike back against an out of control government.”
At this month’s State of the Union/Voice of the People on tvTownhall, which Hardage claimed had 83,000 viewers, speakers included former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain (now a co-founder of tvTownhall and host of a conservative radio program); Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council; Andrew Langer of the Institute for Liberty (which describes itself as “non-profit advocacy organization dedicated to fighting the petty tyrannies of government”); Brent Bozell of the anti-“liberal media” Media Research Center; Tim Phillips of Americans for Prosperity; Penny Nance of Concerned Women for America; Jenny Beth Martin of Tea Party Patriots; and Max Pappas of FreedomWorks (Dick Armey’s group behind the summer’s town hall protests against health care reform and tea party rallies) — uniting religious right and tea party leadership in the same broadcast.
Perkins took a page from Ralph Reed’s new “values” agenda by claiming that expansion of the child care and dependent tax credit “will only help those who put their children in government approved day care” and that stimulus money funds Planned Parenthood. (He also called the Employment Non-Discrimination Act the “cross-dresser’s bill of rights.”) Nance, of Concerned Women for America, insisted that Obama ignores the needs of women, who “don’t like irresponsible spending and a weak military.” Hardage concluded by quoting Burke: “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”
Hardage said today that some people in the tea party movement — not referring to the political veterans who joined his webcast, who know that an alliance with the religious right has been an essential element of conservative victories for decades — fear division resulting from bringing issues like gay marriage and abortion into the tea party fold.
“I find it quite offensive,” said Hardage. “I want no part of any faith that I can compartmenalize. That faith is worthless . . . . it’s a matter of obedience to God’s word.”
Hardage, who runs tvTownhall from his political communications company and refers to himself as its “Patriot in Chief,” asserted that although social issues might divide the religious right and the tea party movement, “at the same time, we have issues with rampant Medicare and Medicaid” because churches aren’t performing “the Great Commission. . . . When churches aren’t taking their rightful place in the public arena,” he went on, “we get social engineering from the government. My passion, my heart is to bring these two groups together and say, we can change this, we can bring this nation back to the vision our forefathers had, from the standpoint of one nation, under God, we can have a nation like that.”
Hardage only had glowing comments about Ralph Reed, whom Hardage said he knew from his days as Ohio state legislative director for the Reed-led Christian Coalition. Hardage dismissed concerns over Reed’s past political scandals, calling him “pivotal,” a “dynamo,” and “an honorable man, one of the brightest political minds our country has seen.” Insisting that Reed’s new Faith and Freedom Coalition is “going to be a mover and shaker,” he added, “no one articulates our faith message better than Ralph Reed, and no one can strategize better.”
As Adele Stan has reported at AlterNet, Reed and Tim Phillips of Americans for Prosperity, a tvTownhall “sponsor,” have a long history together, having been partners at the consulting firm Century Strategies. Last August, Stan wrote:
Americans for Prosperity is, perhaps, the brightest and shiniest of the astroturf organizations responsible for the misinformed, disruptive and sometimes dangerous citizens who continue to turn up at town hall meetings conducted by members of Congress over the August recess. All count themselves as members of the Tea Party movement of anti-tax activists.
His activists tour the country in a big, luxury motor coach painted in red, white and blue, sporting the slogan, “Keep Your Hands Off My Health Care!” With its spiffy graphics and tech-savvy persona, the aesthetics of Americans for Prosperity are reminiscent of the Christian Coalition events and materials of the mid-1990s.
Hardage dismissed the leaderless grassroots movement meme about the tea party movement, agitating instead for leaders like Reed. With Reed’s Christian Coalition savvy and relationships with corporate interests, it looks like the Christianizing of the tea party movement is going to be less about God and more about taking care of business.