To My Friends in the Tea Party: Don’t Stop Now, Guys

The “Tea Party Federation” – a group that purports to represent tea party groups across the country – has exorcised a demon from its midst.

Mark Williams, a radio talk show host by trade, and a self-proclaimed “tea party leader” has been banished from the TPF for writing what might be the most tone deaf, racially insensitive blog post this side of an article praising the Confederate Battle Flag.

It is difficult for a rational person to get their mind around what Williams wrote on his blog in the form of a letter to Abraham Lincoln, about the NAACP’s resolution demanding that racist elements inside the tea party be denounced by its leaders. Reading it was like being transported back to the America of the 1950′s.

Some “highlights:”

Dear Mr. Lincoln

We Coloreds have taken a vote and decided that we don’t cotton to that whole emancipation thing. Freedom means having to work for real, think for ourselves, and take consequences along with the rewards. That is just far too much to ask of us Colored People and we demand that it stop!

[...]

The tea party position to “end the bailouts” for example is just silly. Bailouts are just big money welfare and isn’t that what we want all Coloreds to strive for? What kind of racist would want to end big money welfare? What they need to do is start handing the bail outs directly to us coloreds! Of course, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is the only responsible party that should be granted the right to disperse the funds.

And the ridiculous idea of “reduce[ing] the size and intrusiveness of government.” What kind of massa would ever not want to control my life? As Coloreds we must have somebody care for us otherwise we would be on our own, have to think for ourselves and make decisions!

[...]

Mr. Lincoln, you were the greatest racist ever. We had a great gig. Three squares, room and board, all our decisions made by the massa in the house. Please repeal the 13th and 14th Amendments and let us get back to where we belong.

Sincerely
Precious Ben Jealous, Tom’s Nephew NAACP Head Colored Person

(Note: Williams has since taken the blog post down from his website.)

Williams claims the piece was satire. And while I am generally in favor of cutting some slack to those who seek to use humor and exaggeration in skewering the politically correct racialists who seek to use race to silence opposition and promote their economic and social agendas – the NAACP comes to mind here – there is a line that should never be crossed and Williams’ screed didn’t even come close. It was far over the top, insensitive, ignorant, and cringe-inducing to anyone with half an ounce of empathy.

The Tea Party Federation – chief cat herders among tea party groups – issued this statement within 24 hours of Williams’ impossibly crass and insensible missive:

[David] Webb appeared on the CBS program Sunday morning to announce that Williams and the Tea Party Express — which has held a series of events across the country to generate support for the movement — no longer were part of the National Tea Party Federation.

“We, in the last 24 hours, have expelled Tea Party Express and Mark Williams from the National Tea Party Federation because of the letter that he wrote,” Webb said of Williams’ blog post that satirized a fictional letter from what he called “Colored People” to President Abraham Lincoln.

Williams, you might recall, propelled himself to national attention when his group, Tea Party Express, hosted a “Tea Party Convention” in Nashville last February. There were charges from other tea party groups that Williams was out to make a buck, and that he was setting himself up in a leadership position of the tea party that no one asked him to assume.

To be accurate, his group, the Tea Party Express, was a small cog in the Tea Party Federation – a fact that seemed to get buried the last couple of days as the press has played up Williams’ “leadership” position in the tea party movement. I’m no expert on the group but the idea that any one group or even several groups speaks for the literally thousands of local tea party organizations across the country is a little daffy.

The tea party folk might act in concert on a case by case basis – the Scott Brown campaign being a good example – but what makes the movement so maddening to dissect is its diffused, confused, and fiercely (some might say fanatically) independent bent. While recent polls reflect the reality that most tea partiers are going to vote Republican, that hardly means they accept the GOP as it is currently constituted, nor do they necessarily rule out voting for a Democrat in some instances if that candidate proves themselves stronger on issues like fiscal conservatism and smaller government.

But the question I have for the Tea Party Federation and others in the movement who are applauding the exile of Williams, is why stop there? Why not purge the loons, the paranoids, the irrational nitwits who question Obama’s citizenship, or believe the Democrats want to set up a one party dictatorship, or that Obama is a secret Muslim – or any number of idiocies espoused by those who identify themselves as “tea party patriots?”

If the racists make up a small part of the tea party movement – and I believe they do – so too the paranoid right who have latched on to the rational, mainstream demands of the overwhelming majority of tea partiers for less spending, less government, and more accountability in Washington, by piggybacking their delusional nonsense on to the movement in the form of forums, email lists, and even spokespeople at tea party events.

For every photo of a racist sign at a tea party event, there are two that promote off the wall conspiracy theories about Obama and the Democrats. While you can’t fault the movement in general for the fact that fringe players have latched on for the ride (a casual perusal of signs at any anti-war demonstration would tell you that nutcases are not confined to the right), you can ask for a strong, declarative, unambiguous statement condemning those whose unabalanced, and blatantly paranoid worldview makes the entire tea party movement look like a haven for escapees from the padded cells of insane asylums.

So I would urge the tea party movement to finish the job of booting the riff raff from their ranks by making it plain that only (mostly) rational and logical criticisms of President Obama and the Democrats will be tolerated.

Certainly you can’t completely police what polls tells us is a group of 29 million or so Americans. That would be an unreasonable request and an impossibility anyway.

But the effort must be made. Otherwise, what profit the tea party movement to ban the racists but embrace the crazies?

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