Cultural and economic conservatives team up hoping for 2012 success
June 4th, 2011
05:06 PM ET
12 years ago

Cultural and economic conservatives team up hoping for 2012 success

Washington (CNN) - It'll surely get ugly, so they say they'll need backup.

Contemplating what could be a bruising fight against Democrats and President Barack Obama for 2012 electoral victory, the two-day Faith and Freedom Coalition conference in Washington this weekend is bringing together cultural and economic conservatives in one of the largest and most public efforts to merge the disparate conservative factions.

Ralph Reed, the longtime conservative power broker and the force behind the event, told CNN, "I say to the Tea Party members and activists that are pro-family and are pro-life and do want to work on those issues: Come and be a part of the Faith and Freedom Coalition. Retain your Tea Party membership, but if you're interested in working on those other issues, we've hung out a welcome sign and believe me, we've got a lot of them here this weekend."

Mark Meckler, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots - the nation's largest Tea Party group - expressed a similar sentiment during a Friday night address to attendees.

"This is a critical election in our country's history," Meckler said. He later added, "And there's one thing that we all know for sure, it's going to take all of us, from that entire conservative spectrum, to win the elections of 2012."

Should the two factions meld, it would represent a reversal of thought for the Tea Party. Many activists have long stood steadfast against mixing arguments about debt and taxes with emotionally charged arguments on immigration or family values.

The risk, as the thought goes, is that it would create muddled messages, turn off potential sympathizers and possibly drive away members.

The effort would merge activists who rail against abortion, gay marriage and other cultural issues with those who rail against the national debt, government spending and high taxes.

Reed addressed that line of thought.

"I want to make it abundantly clear: The Tea Party movement and the social conservative movement are separate and distinct. The Tea Party movement works exclusively on spending and fiscal and the size and scope of government issues," Reed said. "We work on those as well as defense and foreign policy issues as well as cultural and values issues. … I don't have any problem at all with the Tea Party working on a narrower band of issues."

Meckler bluntly acknowledged that often both sides might not get along.

"Sometimes, as movements, we might even be a little frustrated with each other. Sometimes we might feel if we're on the social conservative side of things that the Tea Party should be more involved with socially conservative issues and directly address those issues. And sometimes I can tell you, there are people in the Tea Party movement who say, 'The fiscal troubles of our nation are moral issues. How come folks, for example, in the churches aren't talking about our fiscal situation?' "

And yet Meckler was emphatic that any differences between the groups should be set aside to benefit conservatives as a whole. Especially given that, in Reed's estimation, the number of social and economic conservatives could add up to be over 40 percent of the electorate.

"We're headed toward the same goal line," Meckler told conference attendees.

- On Monday, June 13, CNN will host the first New Hampshire Republican Presidential Debate, live from Manchester, NH at 8 p.m. ET. Follow all the issues and campaign news leading up to the debate on and @cnnpolitics on Twitter.

soundoff (27 Responses)
  1. Clwyd

    God should be ashamed of these people rather then giving them support!

    June 5, 2011 07:22 am at 7:22 am |
  2. Jules

    If these GOP people even read the Bible, they would know that what they stand for is against just about everything the Bible does stand for.

    We the people are for the people, not the wealthy but those who are in need.....never heard those words from the GOP!

    June 5, 2011 08:18 am at 8:18 am |
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