Editor’s note: In the original version of this article, we incorrectly stated that Republican candidate Jason Sager attended an event hosted by the Council for Conservative Citizens. A representative for Mr. Sager informed Imagine 2050 that he decided against attending the event after learning that CofCC was a white supremacist group, stating, “Once Jason was informed about who was hosting this event, he pulled out immediately.”
We regret the error.
The Tea Party has had a rough time controlling its message the past few years. It rapidly gained popularity in the media, but not always for the right reasons.
Rather than accounting for valid criticism, Tea Party activists continue to raise a lot of controversy with their anti-government, anti-tax, and anti-immigration agenda. And with spokespersons such as Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck it sometimes feels like they’re asking for the negative publicity. That doesn’t even begin to address the Tea Party rallies, which could easily be mistaken for a movie casting call named ‘bringin’ da noise, bringin’ da crazy.’
Most recently the movement has been in the limelight again after being called out by the NAACP for welcoming known white supremacists into its circles. At its 101st Annual Convention in Kansas City, MO, the NAACP introduced a resolution that accused the Tea Party movement of “harboring racist elements that are a threat to our democracy.”
As can be expected, tea partiers are pissed. A few activists have come out here and there to dispute the allegations and call on the NAACP to withdraw the resolution. Some websites have even produced black tea party supporters willing to lash out at the NAACP.
But those hoping for a titanic wrestling match between the country’s largest civil rights organization and the most prolific grassroots movement of this generation will be disappointed. See, the tea party has no clear leader, and therefore no one to be truly accountable for the national movement.
That hasn’t stopped tea party members and their supporters from from flying to its defense. Fervent supporters, such as the controversial Michelle Malkin, were quick to do the honors. In an article entitled “The National Association for the Advancement of Coddled People” Malkin bashed the NAACP, calling it politically irrelevant and “a laughingstock.” Not even Michelle Obama was safe from her tirade.
What no one seems to mention is the fact that the NAACP has ample cause to call out the Tea Party movement which has been flirting more and more with fiercely anti-immigrant leaders, most of whom have ties to white nationalist groups.
Earlier this year, the Tea Party National Convention was kicked off by Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo, who is on SPLC’s ‘The Nativists’ list. In his keynote address, Tancredo stated that many of the people who voted Obama into office “can’t even spell the word vote or even speak English,” and went on to talk about the “cult of multiculturalism” which is “aided by leftists.”
Tea Party rallies are used as recruiting grounds for white nationalist and anti-immigrant groups. The Kansas City Star interviewed a self-identified white nationalist and Tea Party member named Billy Roper who told the newspaper, “I don’t want non-whites in my country in any form or fashion or any status,”…“We go to these tea parties all over the country,” Roper said. “We’re looking for the younger, potentially more radical people.”
On April 15, 2010 affiliates of the anti-immigrant John Tanton Network were featured at multiple tea party events nationwide, as were a few of their nativist allies. Anti-immigrant group ALI-PAC organized Tea Party Against Amnesty and Illegal Immigration events from April 15-17 in 52 locations nationwide. When ALI-PAC coordinated similar tea party events on November 14, 2009, they featured several speakers affiliated with the Tanton Network. ALI-PAC is designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Even the backlash to the NAACP’s resolution showed signs of extremist and racially insensitive rhetoric. When Tea Party Express spokesman Mark Williams was asked to tell racists they weren’t welcome in the tea party, he sent a response to CNN correspondent Roland Martin that said, “Racists have their own movement. It’s called the NAACP.”
The Tea Party is flirting with disaster the longer it lashes out instead of examining its ranks. Unless its leadership begins to appropriately address these concerns and wean out the bad apples, the movement is at risk of becoming nothing more than a breeding ground for white supremacy.