Who's afraid of the Big Bad Tea Party?
But a lot of liberals are. They cast a wary eye to extreme rhetoric that inspires violence in some. They question the stability of the anti-government protests from the same crowd that told them "Love it or leave it!" just a few years ago.
There is a lot of concern over the direction of political discourse in this country following the venomous opposition to the health care bill and the clear anger from those in the Tea Party movement.
As we approach midterm elections this year, I too am worried that another rebuke in the polls for this movement will inspire more of them to violent or revolutionary activity. Even in the recent days following the passage of healthcare we have seen opposition ridiculous to the point of Republican doctors denying Obama supporters the human right of health care.
But I am not afraid of them. Only 28% of Americans identify with the Tea Party. While that might account for a majority of Republicans, it does not have significant representation among independents and Democrats.
And they're nuts.
The Tea Party is the fringe.
If you listen to the Tea Party, which I have, you begin to realize that there is no single political issue that brings them together or motivates them. Nothing has changed since November 2008 to make them this angry except one thing: Barack Obama is our president.
They are a movement motivated by hate. Freewheeling, unfocused and irrational hate.
Given the history of conservative violence in the United States, I can see why some on the political left are alarmed. Especially when Tea Partiers are screaming racist and homophobic epithets at legislators and hurling bricks through windows.
When Sean Hannity calls them "Tim McVeigh wannabees" to an eruption of cheers.
When they are mailing envelopes filled with white powder and other disgusting objects to our elected representatives, they have entered a state of open revolt against the principles of democracy in the United States.
I'm not suggesting that all conservatives should be lumped in with the Tea Party, or that all tea-partiers should be counted among the violent fringe, but they certainly identify with them. Why else would they cheer at being linked to history's second biggest terrorist attack on US soil?
Tim McVeigh was a product of the modern militia movement who killed which has taken the American tradition of civilian militias and added political, religious and racist militancy into their beliefs. There are still some traditional militias that do not identify with the right wing or the politics of hate, but since the Oklahoma City bombings militias have increasingly identified with the extremist fringe. They are the heart of right-wing violence.
I think we can safely presume that much of the 28% that the Tea Party represents is the same group of people who opposed Obama before he even made a statement of policy due to his racial heritage. When they are fed 'red meat' (raw political speech, dripping with passion) by an opportunist politician, journalist, or business person they become an energized base, and that is why they represent such a force in the upcoming midterm elections.
See, the idea of midterm elections is that you run to your base. Participation is always down from the presidential election years, so the party that gets the most people to the polls will generally pull out the victory. One way to ensure a good partisan turnout is to energize your base. The Republican Party (and its defacto propaganda wing, Fox News) runs this play with perfection.
The problem this time is that Sean Hannity's "Wannabe Tim McVeighs" are all in one place - and with the recent Democratic electoral success's and Barack Obama's victorious presidential campaign, these people feel energized and marginalized -- like an animal who has been backed into a corner.
Even staunch Republicans - minus NewBusters.org - won't deny that right wing violence has become a growing issue in our culture, and few people will deny it's connection to bigotry. It isn't difficult to make a list of recent examples of conservative hate, violence and militancy against American citizens:
1) James Von Brunn, the lone-wolf terrorist responsible for the holocause museum shooting who had deep connections to the Obama birther movement.
2) The death of George Tiller and the Fox News connection to the assassination - and the totally dishonest denial of responsibility by the anchorperson who encouraged his murder.
3) The individuals who are driven to the purchase of firearms and quite possibly the use of such items - I have a personal concern here, I work with one of these folks and he knows I voted for Barack Obama
4) Remember Eric Rudolph? The guy who was responsible for the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Park bombing - which was an international incident - also bombed abortion clinics and expressed a hatred of gay rights - all in the name of right wing causes.
5) James O'Keefe - he was the guy who successfully framed ACORN by posing as a pimp - with his girlfriend pretending to be a prostitute - asking for tax advice. Recently he was caught trying to illegally plant recording devices in Senators' offices.
6) The shouting of racial epithets to members of Congress as they marched to cast their votes for historic health care legislation - and the sleazy, low-brow tactics of the opposition ot health care reform - and the acts of violence against those brave enough to support the legislation. Of course, recall that during the debate over the legislation Republican politicoes issued tongue-in-cheek warnings to non-conservatives that they could face the wrath of the right-wing due to their positions. Then again, Democrats seem perfectly happy to make monetary lemonade from Republican lemons.
Look, honestly, I am not trying to equate all right-wing, conservative thought with violence or Fox News and the Republican Party with extreme rightist racist and separatist movements, but I am saying that the connections are close. This should be of concern to both liberals and mainstream Republicans alike. No one in the mainstream of America, left-wing or right-wing, wants to see the GOP equated with the Tea Party, neo-nazis, or terrorists.
That is why it is important - socially, politically, and electorally - that the GOP start to try to reclaim the political center now, instead of identify with extremist groups who could very well compromise our political system altogether. They need to reject the Tea Party and all it stands for, because it only represents another illegitimate rebellion to the American Constitution, no different from the Confederacy in the Civil War.
No one should want to be a "Tim McVeigh."
In my next blog, we'll discuss the Right Wing's attempts to revise American history by rewriting the textbooks in Texas. If you think I delivered some red meat in this one, wait until I tear into historical revisionism!