In the midst of the Shirley Sherrod hoopla, an interesting situation involving the Tea Party Movement seems to have gone unnoticed:
One of the most prominent men in the tea party movement, Tea Party Express spokesperson and former chair Mark Williams, is abandoning the group he helped propel into the role of the tea party's public face.
. . . In his resignation letter to the TPE, Williams says he left the group after the past week's public battle with the NAACP made him too hot to handle.
"I feel compelled to separate myself from any further involvement with the Tea Party Express so that I can pursue other interests," Williams wrote, "and to free the tea party movement from any more distraction based on my personal comments or blogs."
It's interesting that when Van Jones resigned, folks were commenting about how Glenn Beck - who orchestrated opposition to Jones - "got a scalp." When ACORN was taken down thanks to the videos of James O'Keefe which were pushed by Andrew Breitbart, both were given the dubious honor of "getting a scalp."
Shouldn't the same be said for the NAACP regarding Williams?
After all, it was their resolution denouncing racism in the tea party which fueled the entire controversy causing Williams to make a complete ass of himself and thereby proving the NAACP's point.
Probably not, and for two reasons. No one likes to think of the NAACP as out to "take scalps" and wreck careers. It wouldn't fit into the image of a venerable civil rights groups, although it couldn't hurt if it did.
Secondly, there is this awful idea propagated that no one on the left, in general, knows how to fight hard and asks questions later. The image of Breitbart and many on the right is that of warriors who figuratively dance on the graves of their enemies and gloat even before the bodies have gotten cold.
Meanwhile those of us on the left are seen as wimps, unable to be decisive because we are constantly fretting over the repercussions of our actions even before we take them.
So no, I don't think anyone will be awarding the NAACP with "scalps" anytime soon.
But the organization does have a victory here because one of the head warriors, Breitbart, seems to have tripped and fallen on his own spear.
Right now the NAACP is dealing with the embarrassment of having to apologize to Sherrod after throwing her under the bus. But we must all remember that in controversies like this one, there are long term repercussions that go with the short term ones and sometimes the two run diametrically opposite to each other.
We saw this with the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky situation. While the Republican Party ended up with a huge amount of egg on its face because of the controversy, the scandal made it difficult for Al Gore to embrace Clinton's administrative successes when he ran for president in 2000. Gore shied away from comparing himself to Clinton, which did hurt his campaign.
That, added with a few other situations -including what some on my side still call chicanery- ensured the election of George W. Bush.
In that same vein, we should recognize what effect the Shirley Sherrod situation has on the Tea Party Movement.
If Breitbart had meant to deflect cries of racism from the Tea Party Movement, he failed miserably. If anything, his actions only ensured that the Tea Party Movement will be forever yoked to the image of racism and oppression. And this image will only worsen should Breitbart make an appearance at tea party functions, which I know he will. And I am betting that he will receive thunderous applause too.
In the long run, it doesn't matter how many African-Americans tea party leaders can pull out of the woodwork or how many shows they appear on to decry the idea that they are racist, the one thing people will take from the Sherrod case is that one of their leaders, a white man, helped to railroad an innocent black woman with a doctored videotape and a false claim of racism.
And that image isn't going away anytime soon.