Is the tea party now a socially conservative movement?

There’s a growing gap between the Tea Party’s talk about representing libertarian principles and many of their candidates acting as Trojan Horses for social conservative activist causes. I agree with those Republicans who say that this election is not going to be about social issues. I respect people who are antiabortion as a matter of personal principle or religious faith, and I don’t believe that deeply held beliefs on this most difficult issue should be a litmus test for candidates, pro or con. Good people can disagree. But the soothing big-tent implications offered by those who say the GOP should de-emphasize social issues only seem to go one way. There is no concurrent sense of tolerance for candidates with liberal or libertarian social positions. Where are the Tea Party candidates who are pro-choice?…

Even the conservative populist Tea Party supporters do not support this new Palin standard. A detailed survey by the Times found that only 13 percent of Tea Partiers say that social issues like abortion are their primary concern and only 32 percent believe that it should be illegal in all cases, including rape and incest.

Nonetheless, this new group of candidates campaigning under the Tea Party banner is trying to quietly move the Republican Party significantly to the right on social issues. Encouraged by the conservative feminist presence of Sarah Palin, there is a new absolutism on abortion, one that places ideology over individuals, and drives out a diversity of opinion. Backers of big government and a cradle-to-grave welfare state might logically support the position of forcing women to bring unwanted children into the world. But for alleged advocates of a smaller government, it is both a philosophical and practical contradiction, driven more by faith than reason.