Are the Tea Parties Racist?
It’s an extension of a now-familiar theme: some version of “take our country back.” The problem is that the country romanticized by the far right hasn’t existed for some time, and its ability to deny that fact grows more dim every day. President Obama and what he represents has jolted extremists into the present and forced them to confront the future. And it scares them.
Even the optics must be irritating. A woman (Nancy Pelosi) pushed the health care bill through the House. The bill’s most visible and vocal proponents included a gay man (Barney Frank) and a Jew (Anthony Weiner). And the black man in the White House signed the bill into law. It’s enough to make a good old boy go crazy.
Politically, this frustration is epitomized by the Tea Party movement. It may have some legitimate concerns (taxation, the role of government, etc.), but its message is lost in the madness. And now the anemic Republican establishment, covetous of the Tea Party’s passion, is moving to absorb it, not admonish it. Instead of jettisoning the radical language, rabid bigotry and rising violence, the Republicans justify it. (They don’t want to refute it as much as funnel it.)
I’m sorry, but this is complete and utter disgusting nonsense.
Look, I’ve been going to protests, left, right, and libertarian for 15 years, and if there’s one thing I can guarantee about protests, it’s this–you’ll find moronic, passionate thugs in every single one of them. Especially if you’re looking for them. Go to a left-wing protest and you’ll undoubtedly run into some Che Guevara wearing, vandalize housing development idiots peddling Mao’s Little Red Book. Go to a right-wing protests and you’ll find your share of theocrats, homophobes and the occasional neo-Nazi. Go to libertarian protests and there’ll be idiots trying to sell the Turner Diaries and the Anarchist cookbook trying to tell you that the income tax is illegal.
Look, I don’t think that I’ve made any secret of the fact that I don’t care for the Tea Parites. I think that they’re by and large representative of partisanship with a narrow view of what constitutes a ‘conservative.’ I think that they are, in fact, doing a lot of damage to the Republican Party and by extension the country with their rigid ideology. But that doesn’t make them racists, and it doesn’t make their passion illegitimate, as misguided as I think it is. Do I wish they’d tone down the rhetoric? Hell yes. Oklahoma City and Ruby Ridge weren’t that long ago, and a climate of heated rhetoric only increases the odds of some crazy person doing something stupid.
But do I think that means that most folks who join the Tea Parties are racists bent on doing violence and destroying the government? Hell no. Most folks who join the Tea Parties are decent people who care about the direction their country is going. I disagree with them. I think that their political positions are harmful for the most part and you better believe that I’ll argue with and about them. But racist? No. They’re not pissed that a black man is in the White House. They’re pissed that a liberal Democrat is in the White House. Believe me, they’d be just as pissed if we were talking about President Clinton or President Biden. That’s because they’re conservative, not because they’re racist.
Moreover, let me just add that nothing pisses a decent person off like being accused of being immoral in some way, especially of being a racist or of being violent. Not only are such claims immoral and disgusting, they’re stupid and counterproductive. By making claims like this, liberals and Democrats are only ramping up the pressure by the Republican base for GOP politicians to continue to obstruct the Democrats and continue to decrease any cooperation in government.
As for the actual racist idiots who show up at the Tea Party protests, my advice is to treat them like you treat a two-year old throwing a temper tantrum: ignore them. They just want the attention–don’t give it to them.