DEMINT SEES ‘SPIRITUAL RENEWAL’…. Over the last year or so, there’s been a simmering tension between conservative factions. So-called culture warriors and religious right groups, once the sole basis for the Republican Party’s activist base, are starting to get pushed aside. Their issues, which the GOP pretended to care deeply about, no longer get much in the way of lip-service.

What matters, according to Republicans, is the Tea Party crowd.

CBN’s David Brody asked Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) about this, and it prompted an interesting exchange.

BRODY: Are you concerned at all that some of the social conservative issues, abortion and same sex marriage, some of these other issues because they are taking somewhat of a back seat right now at least to the fiscal issues that there are some inherent problems for social conservatives in something like that?

DEMINT: No actually just the opposite because I really think a lot of the motivation behind these Tea Party crowds is a spiritual component. I think it’s very akin to the Great Awakening before the American Revolution. A lot of our founders believed the American Revolution was won before we ever got into a fight with the British. It was a spiritual renewal.

That’s a nice try, I suppose, but I’d be surprised if even DeMint actually believed this.

Social conservatives have been watching the Tea Party gatherings, and they’ve noticed that the issues at their top of their priority list — hating gays, banning abortion, and getting government support for their religion — aren’t just downplayed; they’re deliberately ignored. After all, the religious right’s agenda alienates those who may be sympathetic to a far-right approach to economics.

Bryan Fischer, a right-wing analyst for the American Family Association, recently said, “There’s a libertarian streak in the tea party movement that concerns me as a cultural conservative. The tea party movement needs to insist that candidates believe in the sanctity of life and the sanctity of marriage.”

Conservatives are going to have to figure this out eventually. One side wants smaller government in all instances; the other wants bigger government on issues related to gays, abortion, religion, and marriage.

DeMint sees a movement built around spirituality. Do the Tea Partiers agree?

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.