Geraldo Rivera sent one of his Fox crews out to cover last week's "Uni-Tea" event in Philly -- you know, the one that was pretty much a total disaster in terms of turnout and meeting the objective, which was to demonstrate how non-racist the Tea Party really is.
Pretty hard to make that case when nearly all of the 200 or so who showed up were lily-white, as even Geraldo's reporter suggests. What he neglected to mention, however, was how puny the turnout was. Maybe the black turnout was so poor because Andrew Breitbart was a headliner. And maybe the general turnout was so light because most of the speakers were refugees from one of those excruciating Glenn Beck "let's talk about race with black conservatives" episodes.
Their schtick, which is getting a bit shopworn by now, was duly stenographed by the AP:
The black members said the racism that has been attributed to the tea party movement came from outsiders who infiltrated the groups to discredit their work and it should be rejected.
"These people do not oppose Barack Obama because of his skin color. They oppose him because of his policies," said Lloyd Marcus, a spokesman for the group.
Simon Maloy notes, of course, that the whole "infiltrator" paranoia among Tea Partiers is pretty hilarious. It's gotten to where all a real infiltrator has to do is show up and start accusing other Tea Partiers of being infiltrators.
Eric Boehlert observes that events like this actually point to a movement in state of decay:
Optimistic organizers, who boasted that their website had attracted 2 million hits during the run-up to the big rally, predicted a crowd of 3,000-4,000 people for the Philadelphia event. And they had every reason to be confident. After all, right-wing celebrity Andrew Breitbart, fresh off his Shirley Sherrod star turn, was scheduled to speak at the event, which was held on a gorgeous summer day in downtown Philadelphia on Independence Mall, where throngs of tourists would already be milling around. So it made sense, as Talking Points Memo reported, that organizers had 1,500 bottles of water on ice to hand out for the throngs who descended on the rally to cheer the Tea Party message.
But how many people actually showed up last Saturday for the national Tea Party rally? One local report put the number at 300. That’s right, 300, or less than one-tenth of the expected turnout. In fact, it’s possible more people showed up in Philadelphia last week to commemorate the opening of the new Apple computer store than showed up at the nationally promoted Tea Party rally featuring Andrew Breitbart.
Oh, and if those black folks want to find some racism? All they have to do is head over to the Tea Party Nation website and log onto the forums, where they can discuss the "Horrors of Illegal Immigration":
Stephen Piggott at Imagine 2050 observes:
In the beginning, the main issues for the Tea Partiers were big government and government spending, but as time goes on the issue of immigration has turned into a focal point for the movement.
One faction of the Tea Party that is not afraid to associate with nativism and xenophobia is the Tea Party Nation, led by Tennessee lawyer Judson Phillips. Earlier this week, the Tea Party Nation sent out an email to its 35,000 members asking them to post their “horror stories” about undocumented immigrants.
The group has set up a new message board forum specifically for its members to post these stories. The email told supporters to post any pictures/videos that show “illegals or their supporters doing outrageous things (like burning the American flag or putting the Mexican flag above ours, or showing racist posters.)”
The bulk of the forum is dedicated to establishing the criminality of Latino immigrants -- even though, in reality, immigration is associated with a decline in crime rates.
In other words, these Tea Partiers are all too happy to demonize a target minority group with demeaning stereotypes: the classic description of racism.
Funny that these black conservatives are willing to look the other way when it comes to racism directed at someone other than African Americans.
But then, their turnout last weekend should have been their biggest clue.
I'm not so sure I agree with Boehlert that events like the one in Philly mean the Tea Parties are now a spent movement. I suspect that the Tea Parties will start drawing big crowds again when they can get back to the red meat that their crowd craves: defending "white culture" and white privilege, reviving the Patriot movement and playing to the nativists. Look for the immigration debate especially to draw out the worst.
But when the purpose of the event is to prove they're not racist (by featuring a bevy of black speakers), well, that's kind of stepping on their underlying message, isn't it? No wonder it got that kind of turnout.