Cue the right-wing wailing and gnashing of teeth: The NAACP has now fully backed up its accusations of racism within the Tea Party movement with a meticulously documented report on the Tea parties' multifarious connections to racists and various far-right extremists.
The report, "Tea Party Nationalism," looks at the relationships and differences between the six major Tea Party organizations -- FreedomWorks Tea Party, 1776 Tea Party, Tea Party Nation, Tea Party Patriots, ResistNet, and Tea Party Express -- and the various ways that each group has established connections with, and empowers, outright racists and white supremacists, as well we far-right "Patriot" extremists of various stripes.
"In these ranks, an abiding obsession with Barack Obama's birth certificate is often a stand-in for the belief that the first black president of the United States is not a 'real American.' Rather than strict adherence to the Constitution, many Tea Partiers are challenging the provision for birthright citizenship found in the Fourteenth Amendment," write authors Devin Burghart and Leonard Zeskind of the Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights, which produced the report for the NAACP.
The heart of the report is the section titled "Racism, Anti-Semitism and the Militia Impulse, which includes some previously overlooked facets of the movement and revealing details:
-- James von Brunn, the white supremacist who killed a Holocaust Museum guard last year, posted on Tea Partner Express partner websites.
-- Mark Williams, former chairman of the Tea Party Express, not only wrote racist screeds, he made death threats against President Obama,
-- Billy Joe Roper, a member of the ResistNet Tea Party who also happens to be the founder of the overtly racist White Revolution organization, indulging in "Nazi glamorization" with his eulogy for William Pierce, author of The Turner Diaries, the notorious race-war blueprint.
We also get "profiles of troubling Tea Partiers," including Roan Garcia-Quintana, a South Carolina Tea Party member who the report says belongs to the largest white nationalist group in the country; Karen Pack, another Tea Party member the report says is linked to the Ku Klux Klan; and Clay Douglas, a Tea Party member from Arizona the report says has pushed "militia-style 'New World Order' conspiracies" and "hard core anti-Semitism."
As Benjamin Jealous remarks in the Foreword to the report:
I hope the leadership and members of the Tea Party movement will read this report and take additional steps to distance themselves from those Tea Party leaders who espouse racist ideas, advocate violence, or are formally affiliated with white supremacist organizations. In our effort to strengthen our democracy and ensure rights for all, it is important that we have a reasoned political debate without the use of epithets, the threat of violence, or the resurrection of long discredited racial hierarchies.
Naaaah, no such luck:
“Here we go again,” said Judson Phillips, founder of Tea Party Nation. “This is typical of this liberal group’s smear tactics.”
And the Tea Party Express' Sal Russo said that "[t]o attack a grassroots movement of this magnitude with sundry isolated incidents only goes to show the NAACP has abandoned the cause of civil rights for the advancement of liberal Democrat politics."
Of course, because the data in this report is there for everyone to see, it's pretty hard for them to claim that this is merely anecdotal evidence: Rather, we're talking about a problem that is very much systemic in nature.
If the Tea Party leaders were sincere and honest about wanting to get rid of any racists who might be attaching themselves to their movement, they would take this report seriously and respond to it forthrightly.
But they aren't. So they won't.
And the reality of racism within the ranks of the Tea Party will only deepen.
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