Campus Media Response: Tea Partiers Need to Upgrade Their Moral Code

Writing in the Harvard Crimson, Luis Martinez recently offered a sober analysis of the prospects for victory by “Tea Party” candidates in the upcoming November elections. Martinez notes how the Tea Partiers, who originally organized around economic issues and the demand to limit government spending, have now become distracted by infighting over “social issues” like abortion, same-sex marriage, and immigration. He thinks this is dangerous to prospects for a Republican victory:

With an emphasis on issues ranging from immigration and abortion, to gay marriage, the Tea Party often reminds the establishment of where not to go in an effort to have the best possible outcome in these midterm races. These issues are often divisive and unhelpful when trying to win over crucial independent votes. There is a great opportunity for Republicans to win big this cycle and the only way to do so is to push an economic plan that reigns in spending and helps small businesses start up again. This is what the American people care about in 2010. This doesn’t mean a sacrifice of morals, but a focus on the issues that really are affecting millions of jobless Americans and many more cash-strapped families….

Martinez is right that focusing on abortion and same-sex marriage is a losing proposition for GOP candidates. But is it a winning proposition to believe that morality is not an issue that affects millions of Americans every day? Obama was swept into office by a tidal wave of idealistic moral fervor. Can Republicans hope to oppose this trend by saying, in effect, “We don’t care about morality. Just give us our bread and butter?” No: the problem with abortion and same-sex marriage as issues is not that they require Republicans to take a moral stand, but that they require them to take a moral stand whose only justification is private religious faith. This is a justification that even many Republicans do not see as appropriate for a public forum—a fact that leads to the fracturing of Republican unity at the polls.

To show the needed unity, Tea Party Republicans need to embrace morality, but in the form of a moral idealism unshackled from private religious faith, one based firmly on facts that anyone can grasp. And they need a code that morally condemns any policy inhibiting the free pursuit of happiness—whether economically or “socially.” The purpose of such a moral code is to guide us in achieving life and prosperity on Earth. Describing the outlines of such a fact-based morality of personal happiness, Yaron Brook and Onkar Ghate wrote the following at CNN:

Although few of us would turn to the Old Testament or the Quran to determine the age of the Earth, too many of us still turn obediently to these books (or their secular copies) as authorities about morality. We learn therein the moral superiority of faith to reason and collective sacrifice to personal profit.
But the more seriously we take these old ethical ideas, the more suspect become the modern ideas responsible for human progress. The scientists in their laboratories did not demonstrate the superiority of faith. Thomas Jefferson in his Declaration did not proclaim the superiority of collective sacrifice. Why should we think these ideas are the path to moral enlightenment?

[I]f morality is a guide in the quest to achieve your own happiness by creating the values of mind and body that make a successful life, then morality is about personal profit, not its renunciation.

Read the whole piece by Brook and Ghate.

Public Domain Images from Wikimedia Commons

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Valery Publius is the pen name of a teacher living in the American South.