A fundamental change is gripping the Republican grass roots as they animate the GOP surge to a major victory in the 2010 elections. No longer do evangelical or social issues dominate the Republican ground troops. Now, economic and fiscal issues prevail. The tea party has made the Republican Party safe for libertarians.
There is still a litmus test for admission to the Republican Party. But no longer is it dominated by abortion, guns and gays. Now keeping the economy free of government regulation, reduced taxation and curbs on spending are the chemicals that turn the paper pink.
It is one of the fundamental planks in the tea party platform that the movement does not concern itself with social issues. At the tea parties, evangelical pro-lifers rub shoulders happily with gay libertarians. They are united by their anger at Barack Obama's economic policies, fear of his deficits and horror at his looming tax increases. Obama's agenda has effectively removed the blocks that stopped tens of millions of social moderates from joining the GOP.
As a byproduct of this sea change in the Republican Party, GOP grass-roots activists are no longer just concentrated in the South. They are spread all throughout the nation, as prominent in Ohio as in Alabama, in New York as in Georgia, in California as in Nevada.
The tea party's focus on fiscal and economic issues finds deep resonance among voters of all stripes, united as they are in economic hardship and disappointed as they all are by Obama's economic program. This antipathy to federal policies is paving the way for vast Republican inroads in normally solid Democratic turf like New York state, Massachusetts, California and Washington state.
Fighting over abortion has become a cottage industry in America. As useful to the left as to the right, both camps have used the issue for 30 years to demand orthodoxy of their constituents and fidelity from their electorates. No longer does the pro-life/pro-choice debate hold voters in blue states hostage to the Democratic Party, bound and determined to swallow as much in regulation and taxation as their liberal candidates offer if only to protect Roe v. Wade. Nor does it hypnotize Southern or rural conservatives, who grant their Blue Dog congressmen a pass on Election Day as long as they are right on life, guns and gays.