Case Study in How to Dig a Deeper Hole
By now, I’m assuming most of you have probably read, seen, or heard reports that the NAACP “has passed a resolution condemning racism in the Tea Party movement.”
On the Tea Party side, the denials and denunciations swiftly followed, including from St. Louis of all places:
In response, the St. Louis Tea Party Coalition passed a resolution of its own, calling the NAACP resolution “a gutter tactic of attempting to silence opponents by inflammatory name-calling.”
The St. Louis resolution also called on the NAACP to withdraw its “bigoted, false and inflammatory resolution against the tea party.”
But that pales in comparison to what I heard on NPR this morning, from Mark Williams, identified by NPR as “a national spokesman for the Tea Party Express.” Referring to the NAACP, Williams said …
You’re dealing with people who are professional race baiters, who make a very good living off this kind of thing. They make more money off of race than any slave trader ever. It’s time groups like the NAACP went to the trash heap of history where they belong with all the other vile racist groups that emerged in our history.
If I were running the PR operation for the Tea Party — a laughable thought, I know — the recommended response would have been much different, along these lines:
We applaud the NAACP for recognizing that the Tea Party movement, as a whole, is not racist — for limiting their condemnation to those “elements” or individuals who have made hateful statements and committed hateful acts. Such individuals have no place in the Tea Party. They do not speak for this movement in any capacity. We gladly accept the challenge of NAACP President Benjamin Jealous to “expel the bigots and racists.” And as we re-double our efforts to do just that, we trust the NAACP and others will seek opportunities to engage with us in civil, constructive debates about the issues confronting our nation.
If that type of response had been approved, I’ll wager the Tea Partiers would have done a lot to burnish their reputation and advance their arguments on government spending, etc. Unfortunately, I’m also compelled to wager that, if Party leadership had approved a response along the lines of what I suggest, they would have been summarily dismissed from the Party’s ranks — i.e., the movement would have proceeded to “expel” the wrong individuals.