If the tea party movement wanted to shake its image as the angriest bastion for the lunatic right - with heavy emphasis on the lunatic part - last weekend's first-ever National Tea Party Convention in Nashville did not help. Even more than Sarah Palin's appearance, what continues to resonate with the general public, post-convention, is kick-off speaker Tom Tancredo's racist attacks and his endorsement of a civics and literacy test for voters.
That the former congressman from Colorado is an anti-immigrant blowhard should not surprise anyone who caught his ugly, voter-rejected act during the Republican presidential primaries two years ago. But that tea party leaders chose not to condemn his speech in Nashville suggests their ideologies are closely attuned - much to their shame.
Tea partiers should have at least flinched when Mr. Tancredo attacked President Barack Obama by invoking his middle name of Hussein - that shopworn technique of not-so-subtly suggesting some nefarious Iraqi connection. Or perhaps when he blustered that "people who could not even spell the word 'vote' or say it in English put a committed socialist ideologue in the White House."
But when the Republican bomb-thrower suggested that Mr. Obama won because the nation lacks a civics and literacy test for voters, the crowd should have been stunned and alarmed. Surely, anyone familiar with this country's civil rights history should have been. For decades, such tests had one purpose - to prevent blacks from voting. And to make reference to them in context of the country's first African-American president? That's not some slip of the tongue or moment of political incorrectness. That's the stuff of Klan rallies.
So what exactly is the tea party movement all about? It may have been advertised as a populist rally against big government, but it's clearly headed in many directions that have little to do with taxes or spending.
Evangelicals, anti-immigrant activists, protectionists and a lot of Republican pols looking to score points with the movement seemed to be part of the convention too. What drives it seems to be some ill-defined anger at the status quo - and President Obama (and all that his election implied) is at its core.
The tea party forces make Ross Perot's Reform Party of the 1990s look staid and sensible in comparison. Mr. Perot may have had his personal quirks, but Reformers were forthright and entirely reasonable about their priorities: reduce the debt, reform politics and defeat the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
The fledgling tea party's descent into misanthropy is unfortunate for any number of reasons, not the least of which is that concern over the deficit's size is legitimate - although extraordinarily ill-timed, considering how it much easier it would have been to address the nation's borrowing before it was teetering on depression.
When a political movement is defined more by outrage than principle, one shouldn't be shocked to see racism join the fray. What's disappointing is not that such views have emerged from the madding crowd but that few, if any, involved appear willing to condemn them.
Readers respond Following your idiotic logic, every Democrat is a racist because they "did not flinch" but even actively approved and defended Harry Reid's comment about President Obama being light-skinned and having no Negro dialect.
The movement is strong and we have seen the election results already. That corrupt John Murtha's Congressional seat is next, as well as Obama's Senate seat.
The only thing that keeps me from joining the tea party movement are the racist elements, including the birthers.
You started out with a knock of Palin. That blew your entire premise. Granted, Tancredo is off the reservation (whoops, was that racist), but you assume Palin is racist and the other speakers are as well. You lump the entire Tea Party movement as racist just as liberals have done with conservatives (you call them lunatic right) for many years.
You should detail what Palin said in the conference - you may be surprised that you would agree with her support of the average American. But I doubt it. Your rhetoric exposes you.
Indeed, the hateful words of Tancredo echo those of the KKK which were designed to prevent blacks from voting. The KKK was a chaotic assembly of anti-black vigilante groups (substitute that for militant anti-Obama folks). They were coercive moral reformers, arrogant and self-righteous. They promoted white supremacy, spoke hatefully of minorities and were fearful of competition for jobs from blacks and immigrants. The FBI must keep tabs on these babbling morons.
How can someone who thinks you should be educated enough to know what or who you are voting for be called a racist? That is just wanting to protect government integrity.
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