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After the July 4 Tea Parties, What Do They Mean?

08/09/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

In Houston, Texas the Tea Party was part protest and partly a statement of group identity. One sign read, "I'm the ProLife, gun toting Constitutionalist the DHS warned you about." Otherwise the 600 rallied against Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi as a symbol of their discontent. In Austin, they booed Republican Senator John Cornyn because of his vote for the Troubled Asset Relief Program and held signs denouncing illegal immigration and taxes, according to local news reports.

In Evansville, Indiana, the crowd stood at about 1,700, and one attendee told the local newspaper that, "My strongest concern is that our president can say we aren't a Christian nation and it's hardly even noticed." Almost 300 souls turned out for the Tea Party in downtown Terre Haute. Among their grievances: lax immigration rules, socialized medicine and welfare. Across the Ohio River in Louisville, the numbers were down from the previous protest on April 15, but the message was the same: "we are losing our freedom." In Oklahoma City news reports noted that several attendees believed President Obama was actually born in Kenya.

Although organizers claimed that the number of Tea Parties had climbed from 800 on April 15 to 1200 on July 4, anecdotal evidence and news reports indicate that overall participation had probably declined. Not surprisingly, Florida, Texas and California--all states with large populations--had the greatest number of individual events. In heavily populated but Democratic Party-dominated states like New York and Illinois, however, the numbers remained very small. It would be a mistake to simply conclude, as several commentators have, that these were strictly Republican affairs. The complaints cited ranged from fiscal debt and taxes--two staples of the Republican Party opposition--to matters of immigration and guns, issues usually considered the province of gun lobbies and nativists further to the right. And yes, white nationalists did try to turn some of these melanin-deprived protests into a recruiting zone, much as I described in my last post on this topic.

Not everybody agreed with me at that time. One response from a South Florida "Tea Party committee member" wrote to say that "Stormfront is in our neighborhood and has never distributed material at any meetings or events of ours." Apparently Palm Beach County Republicans learned their lesson after letting Derek Black, the son of Stormfront founder Don Black, slip by them and get elected last December to a party committee post. The Republican regulars were subsequently forced to unseat him.

As for the July 4 events, white nationalists of various persuasions were part of the mix everywhere they could get a foothold. One account by Billy Roper's group, White Revolution, described their intervention at a Tea Party in Russellville, Arkansas. They held signs opposing "illegal immigration," handed out leaflets stating general principles and then came back after the Tea Party disbanded to have a protest of their own.

In other cases, white nationalists did not breathe their own name. In Hickory, North Carolina, supporters of media personality Glenn Beck organized into a group calling itself "9/12," had a slightly different kind of discussion.

In Goodland, Kansas, the April 15 Tea Partiers have already transformed themselves into the High Plains Constitutional Society. The constitutionalists sponsored a talk on June 28 by Richard Mack, a former Arizona sheriff who became a darling of the militia movement in the mid-1990s. On July 4, Mack spoke again at an event in Eureka, Montana, according to information provided by the Montana Human Rights Network.

All of the Tea Parties added together will probably have little effect on how the Obama Administration and the Congress decide to make policy. The fact that after April 15 the Republican Party leadership ran away from this mini-movement, does not augur well for its immediate influence. Neither does the fact that the national media virtually ignored hundreds of these events all across the country. As an organization-building effort by Ron Paul's Campaign for Liberty, however, the Tea Parties were an unqualified success. Ditto for Don Wildmon's American Family Association.

For white nationalists, the results are mixed. They still have not developed any kind of program aimed at white people hardest hit by the economic crisis. Instead, they have chosen to insert themselves into someone else's parade, like Trotskyites chasing an anti-war protest. And these points of political weakness among the white power set can not be remedied by murdering doctors, museum guards and nine-year girls.