A new report endorsed by the NAACP and various leftist groups claims to have linked white nationalist groups to the tea party movement. The report, titled “Tea Party Nationalism,” looks at various nationalist groups’ websites and news articles to claim tea party events provide a forum for extremists “hoping to push these [white] protesters toward a more self-conscious and ideological white supremacy.”
A Kansas City, Mo.,-based group commissioned the report. The Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights, a group funded in part by the liberal Firedoll Foundation looked at a limited number of tea party “factions,” many loosely organized online or at the county-level. In addition, out a movement consisting of millions of Americans, the report singles out five individual self-proclaimed tea partiers — one of whom has been expelled from their local chapter — for having ties to anti-Semitic, militia and white nationalist groups.
Though most recall the origins of the tea party movement based in public outrage over growing government and spending, the NAACP-backed report claims that the movement was racially charged from the start:
[O]n February 19, 2009, a stock analyst for a cable television network, Rick Santelli, let loose a five-minute on-air rant from the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Yelling “This is America!” he attacked the home mortgage rescue plan the Obama administration had unveiled the day before. It was “promoting bad behavior,” he argued, by rewarding the “losers” who took on more debt than they could afford. Santelli said that Obama was turning America into Cuba, and called for a capitalist “Chicago Tea Party.”
An unstated racial element colored Santelli’s outrage over the Obama administration’s home mortgage rescue plan. During the years leading up to the housing crisis, banks had disproportionately targeted communities of color for subprime loans. Many of the so-called “losers” Santelli ranted about were black or Latino borrowers who’d been oversold by lenders cashing in on the subprime market. Their situations were worsened by derivatives traders, like Santelli, who packaged and re-packaged those loans until they were unrecognizable and untenable.
The report then goes on to describe how Santelli’s call for limited government intervention in the market “changed character.” It goes on to deride groups like Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks for their early support for and involvement in tea party organization, and looks at various national tea party “factions.”
To link the tea party movement to a white supremacy agenda, the report looks at a single comment thread on a single white supremacy website:
In preparation for Tea Party protests held on July 4, 2009, national socialists and other white supremacists created a discussion thread on Stormfront.org, the largest and most widely accessed of the many white nationalist websites.216 While highlighting the distinction between themselves and the majority of Tea Partiers who were not self-conscious about their own racism, one person argued, “We need a relevant transitional envelop-pushing flyer for the masses. Take these Tea Party Americans by the hand and help them go from crawling to standing independently and then walking towards racialism.”
Is it surprising that a minute minority of people would try to latch onto a growing movement to increase their own membership? No. Does it mean the tea party movement itself is inherently racist? Not in reality, but yes according to the NAACP-backed report.
NAACP president Benjamin Jealous claims that his organization is “not attacking the tea party” or “calling the tea party racist.” Tea party chapters from across the country have unhesitatingly condemned these kinds of attitudes. But Jealous insists, using the new report as an example, that the movement has not repudiated “the racists in their midst.”
The report dismisses black conservatives who have stood up at tea party rallies across the country to denounce the NAACP’s past claims of racism within the movement, claiming they were putting ideology over race. Instead, the report claims the movement is “infested” with racists and racist beliefs.
The report also links government handouts and race, claiming that tea party opposition to expanded government welfare programs amounts to racism:
[A]lmost three-quarters of Tea Party supporters (73%), told pollsters that government programs aimed at providing a social safety net for poor people actually encourages them to remain poor. In fact, more than a bit of anecdotal evidence shows hostility and resentment towards the poor and the programs designed to help them. Hence, the signs such as one at an early St. Louis Tea Party that read: “Honk if I am paying your mortgage.” Not every Tea party supporter exhibited such feelings, certainly, but enough of it showed up in opinion polls to give credence to the description of Tea Parties as mean-spirited.
In addition, the report makes another inextricable links between opposition to President Obama’s liberal agenda, racism and blind nationalism:
[B]oth anecdotal evidence and poll data point to an irreconcilable gap between the president and Tea Partiers. More is at issue here than a simple disagreement of social policy and legislation. Indeed, a quarter of Tea Party supporters polled on the question admit that they think that the Obama “administration favors black people over whites.” When asked whether or not Barack Obama understood the “needs and problems of people like you,” almost three-fourths of Tea Partiers (73%) said “no.” A similar number (75%) said he did not “share the values most Americans try to live by.”
These numbers indicate racial and cultural differences that morph directly into opposing beliefs about immigration, national identity and a question that haunts this Tea Party movement: Who is an American?
“We have challenged Democratic Party in the same way. We challenged Republicans when they embraced the old Dixiecrats,” Jealous said during a Wednesday morning conference call, defending the NAACP’s endorsement of the report.
The report claims that America’s growing tea party movement is rooted in a sort of nationalism that “does not include all Americans,” and condemns tea partiers for their “over-stated veneration” for the U.S. Constitution and defense of American exceptionalism:
The Revolutionary War-era costumes, the yellow “Don’t tread on me” Gadsden flags from the same era, the earnest recitals of the pledge of allegiance, the over-stated veneration of the Constitution, and the defense of “American exceptionalism” in a world turned towards transnational economies and global institutions: all are signs of the over-arching nationalism that helps define the Tea Party movement. (emphases mine)
The report also claims the tea party movement is tied to “birthers,” or individuals who question whether President Obama was born outside the United States.
It is a form of American nationalism, however, that does not include all Americans, and separates itself from those it regards as insufficiently “real Americans.” Consider in this regard, a recent Tea Party Nation Newsletter article entitled, “Real Americans Did Not Sue Arizona.” Or the hand-drawn sign at a Tea Party rally that was obviously earnestly felt. “I am a arrogant American, unlike our President, I am proud of my country, our freedom, our generosity, no apology from me.”
It is the notion that President Barack Obama is not a real natural born American, that he is some other kind of person, that abounds in Tea Party ranks and draws this movement into a pit of no return. …
In the opinion of this reporter, the report’s “evidence” is laughable and its allegations are despicable. Despite claiming in the report’s introduction that his group knows “the majority of tea party supporters are sincere, principled people of goodwill,” Ben Jealous’ continued attacks on the tea party movement suggest otherwise.
The “links” demonstrated in this latest report show little more than the desperation of one side currently losing a broader ideological battle.