Last Thursday's Tea Party at Daley Plaza in Chicago drew about 1500 participants. Belying their alleged "grassroots" nature, the rally's organizers were heavily aided by pre-rally publicity in the corporate press -- including not only the inevitable wall-to-wall Fox News coverage, but also a front-page lead article in the Chicago Tribune.
Tea Partier loses her sh-- while debating an anti-Tea Party counter-protester
Anti-war organizers who attempted to hold a rally on Daley Plaza a month before were met with demands by Daley Plaza management that they come up with a $2 million per incident insurance policy not only for themselves, but similar policies for each of their vendors. The insurance demands proved so onerous that anti-war organizers were forced to change the location of their rally.
But the "grassroots" Tea Partiers either came up with the millions of insurance coverage, or got privileged with a pass from Daley Plaza management authorities who refused to give same courtesy to anti-war organizers.
Even though in the weeks leading up to the rally, Tea Party organizers repeatedly told their supporters to leave their nuttier and racist signs at home, a number of kooks defied the organizers' attempts to clean up their movement's image.
Xenophobia on parade
The lead speaker at their rally was former Republican primary gubernatorial candidate Adam Andrzejewski who, belying the Tea Partiers' claims of being against intrusive government, supports a constitutional amendment banning equal marriage rights for gays and lesbians.
And that's just the start of his bigoted agenda. Here is how Andrzejewski answered a candidates' questionnaire:
** Do you support civil unions or gay marriage in the state? Against
** Would you support a constitutional amendment to sanctify male/female marriage? Support
** Would you make Illinois a right to work state? Support
** Do you Support state funding for stem cell research? Against
** Are you for allowing sanctuary cities in Illinois? Against
** Are you for the moratorium on executions? End it 
Here's how he answered another questionnaire:
** [Are you for] Allowing and promoting Gay Straight Alliance Clubs and LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, queer) programs in taxpayer-funded schools? Oppose
In other words, Mr. anti-big government supports a government ban on certain students' organizations.
** [Are you for] Imposing Federal environmental restrictions on States and individuals? Oppose 
So when it comes to government controls on corporate behavior, he advocates ZERO environmental regulation!
Another of the Tea Partiers' prominent speakers was Kathy Barkulis. She's a big fan of racist blowhard Glenn Beck and writes of "the negative impact of illegal immigration on American citizens." 
On one of her blogs she posted a picture of Obama between Hitler and Lenin and wrote, "They hate America. They hate the U.S. Constitution. They hate individualism. The more I read about the backgrounds of the president's czars, the more I fear for the future of our country. This goes beyond Socialism. They are Communists, Marxists, and Anarchists. They are Collectivists. They hate capitalism. They hate successful individuals." 
Right wing conspiracy theories were well-represented.
A typical blog post is entitled, yes, in ALL CAPS, "COMMUNISTS IN THE WHITE HOUSE....WILL ANYONE STOP THIS ???????" 
Joe McCarthy, where are you now when we need you to tell us just how many communists there are in the State Department??
Besides an array of assorted right wing crackpots, the Tea Partiers drew at least a few Nazis, who apparently view the Tea Party movement as a potential recruiting ground. Here is one of them at Thursday's rally:
And here is a YouTube video of the same Nazi - wearing the same ubber-patriotic shirt - speaking at a 2009 Hitler Birthday celebration with a portrait of Adolph Hitler behind him:
Fascist protected by cops is escorted away from the Tea Partiers' rally after counter-demonstrators surrounded him and began chanting "Nazis go home!"
Fortunately there was a strong crowd of anti-war, pro-civil rights counter-protesters, both on one corner of the plaza and mingling on the edge of the Tea Partiers' rally.
Many left wing commentators have noted that the Tea Party movement has served as a "useful idiot" for the Republican Party and the portions of the big business elite whom they represent. This is true enough, and it should serve as a warning for how we need to oppose them.
If the left is seen as simply tools of the Democratic Party, we lose all credibility, and justifiably so. Moveon.org and other extensions of the Party are more interested in promoting the Party at all costs while paying lip service to the real hurt that many working people are feeling just days after the federal government released a new round of statistics announcing record foreclosures for the first quarter of 2010.
Yes, we must defend the Obama administration against the racist attacks of the Tea Partiers -- while also opposing Obama for the fact that he has done next to nothing for Blacks, Latinos, gays, immigrants and working people in general. Whatever happened to the bold promises of repealing or reforming NAFTA that Clinton and Obama dueled over in the run up to the Ohio primary? Or card check? And that's just the beginning of the list.
Almost all of Obama's promises to the left have been kicked into the second half of the first (only?) term of his Presidency, after the mid-term elections when the Democrats will then have the excuse that they do not have the power to enact their promises into law. By pushing the business elites' priorities -- the record bailout to the financial services industry and a maintenance and expansion of Bush-era empire building and attacks on civil liberties -- Obama has clearly "played" most of his supporters.
Like with Bill Clinton before him, it has been Obama's accommodations to the right, while taking the left for granted, that have fueled the rightward drift in Washington politics, where "health care reform" metamorphosizes into private health insurance industry preservation, with big fillips to anti-abortion nuts and a freeze on domestic spending along the way.
Our opposition to the Obama administration, while now far smaller than it needs to be, can only be effective if we return to the core demands of our movements -- demands that are not designed to give comfort to the administration, but to confront it for continuing the Neanderthal policies of its predecessors:
-- Concerned about the indebtedness of our children and future generations? Stop spending 57% of the federal budget on past and present wars.
-- "Si se puede" ("Yes we can") is not a cheap electoral slogan. Amnesty for all immigrants. They are working people like most of the rest of us, trying to eck out a living in hard times. We are idiots if we allow ourselves to be part of a divide-and-conquer strategy of our opponents trying to scapegoat immigrants for the lack of jobs and social services.
-- Full legal equality for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people, including marriage rights and equal employment rights in government and the private sector.
... and these are just for starters ...
Hat Tip -- Thanks to South Side Anti-Racist Action for i.d.'ing the fascist organizer at the Chicago Tea Party event.