The four candidates looking to be the Republican challenger to US Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) in the Nov. 2012 election debated each other in Orlando on Saturday. The event, hosted by the Florida Family Policy Council and the West Orlando Tea Party, should give pause to anyone who thought the Tea Party’s purported libertarian principles would bolster the chances of online poker legislation being passed in Washington.
All four of the GOP wannabes – George LeMieux, Adam Hasner, Mike McCalister and Craig Miller – made damn sure they told their audience what it wanted to hear. And on the issue of legalizing online gambling, all four were categorically opposed to the idea. They were also opposed to stem cell research, gay marriage, protection for gay people under hate crime laws, and most instances of abortion. Predictably, these and other stances were given thunderous ovations by the voters in attendance.
This wouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone who read the recent New York Times article on the core beliefs of the Tea Party’s rank and file. Research conducted by professors at Harvard and Notre Dame revealed that the Tea Party is essentially the old Religious Right disguised under Revolutionary War-era tricorn hats. Using data first collected in 2006, before the Tea Party had officially entered the political arena, researchers found that “the strongest predictor of being a Tea Party supporter today was a desire, back in 2006, to see religion play a prominent role in politics.”
Besides being overwhelmingly white and holding “a low regard for immigrants and blacks long before Barack Obama became president,” Tea Partiers seek “deeply religious” public officials, approve of religious leaders’ seeking public office and want religion brought into public debates. And in case anyone’s unclear on this, the Good Book is agin’ gambling (or so we’ve been told).
This melding of politics and religion has actually fallen in favor amongst the majority of the US electorate, but nonetheless, as the recent debt crisis debate proved, Republican leaders are bending over backwards to burnish their credentials with Tea Party radicals. The Tea Party is the GOP’s squeaky wheel, and if the recent presidential primary debates are any indication, Republican leaders intend to go on greasing it. And that makes the likelihood of federal online poker legislation passing this fall a very bad bet.