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Washington Times Compares 'Tea-Bagger' To N-Word

First Posted: 07/05/10 06:12 AM ET Updated: 05/25/11 05:20 PM ET

Tea Party

This "Inside the Beltway" column from Jennifer Harper in the Washington Times begins, "The term 'tea-bagger' is like uttering the 'n' word, some say." Oh, really? Well, "some people" are wrong!

Granted, I understand perfectly well that people in the larger "Tea Party" movement consider the term to be mean and diminishing. And I understand that those who use it are basically shorthanding the meanness and diminishment. The word has a sexual connotation -- which, by the by -- the Tea Party movement embraced for itself before it became used as a brickbat against them.

But is it the equivalent of the "n" word? Uhm... you'll notice that nobody shorthands it, "the 't' word," don't you? That should tell you something. On the spectrum of insult, "teabagger" seems to me to be the equivalent of "moonbat" or "wingnut," which are also popular shorthand insults embraced by political factions who use them as shibboleths -- a tidy signifier of groupwide self-satisfaction.

Here's Grover Norquist, mewling about this in an utterly perspective-free fashion:

"This remark is the equivalent of using the 'n' word. It shows contempt for middle America, expressed knowingly, contemptuously, on purpose, and with a smirk. It is indefensible to use this word. The president knows what it means, and his people know what it means. The public thought we reached a new low of incivility during the Clinton administration. Well, the Obama administration has just outdone them," ATR president Grover Norquist tells Inside the Beltway.

Norquist wishes that "middle America" has something to do with this, but it doesn't. The Tea Partiers are basically affluent people with elite educations who didn't get what they wanted in an election year and who now parade around with signs that read "Listen to me!" as if it's the rest of the country -- who voted in larger numbers, by the way -- that needs to take a seat at the back of the bus.

And really, the comparison to a racial slur is just ridiculous. As Alex Balk puts it, Norquist just "casually dismisses three centuries of dehumanization, violence, and intimidation in the world's most pathetic attempt to manufacture outrage." I mean, did I miss the part where these affluent folks worked on my cotton plantation, and were traded as chattel, and were counted as three-fifths of a person? I guess I need to be filled in!

All of this has currency, by the way, because apparently President Barack Obama is said to have used the term, according to a new Jonathan Alter book. Obviously, this is terrible, when you consider how respectful the Tea Partiers have been at all times toward Obama, as they've made their case in their many television appearances.

Here's a bottom line way of looking at it. The "n"-word represents only the tip of the iceberg of the cruelty that has been visited upon black people in America. On the other hand, the word "teabagger" represents the full extent to which anyone has been cruel to the Tea Partiers.

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