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Rereading the Tea Leaves: July 4 Protests Will Include White Nationalists

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On July 4, tens of thousands of mostly middle-class white people in hundreds of different cities will register their opposition to the Barack Obama presidency at Tea Party events from coast to coast. Mainline Republicans will be among the protestors. They might carry poster signs about the rapidly expanding national debt, or against universal healthcare and more taxes. Expect also that peculiar brand of libertarian conservative from Congressman Ron Paul's Campaign for Liberty, which is actually one of two organizational pillars of the Tea Parties. The other mainstay has been Donald Wildmon's American Family Association. Its website has posted the names of more than 1,500 people who have signed up to organize protests in their communities. A total of 1,271 cities will have AFA "registered" events.

The Tea Parties will also attract a number of white nationalist activists this time around, drawn primarily by the prospect of a replay of Tea Party protests last April 15. At that time more than 260,000 people showed up at over 300 Tea Party events, according to a respectable count by Nate Silver, who used mainstream media reports as his guide. At that time, Minuteman and other anti-immigrant activists added to the count, as did members of the Council of Conservative Citizens, a white nationalist organization headquartered in St. Louis with member concentrations throughout the South and Mid-South.

A recent opinion piece by Bill Rolen in the Council's tabloid newspaper, The Citizen Informer, underscores his organization's ambivalence over the Tea Party events. On the positive side he writes, "the fact that hundreds of thousands of white people got up the nerve to oppose the government [was] astonishing." On the other hand, Rolen notes the "negative tendency that plagues Tea Party activism...to deny the racial dynamic empowering the movement." He concludes that, "The future of this revolution, if that is what it is, depends on white zealots." Little talk of taxes and budget deficits intrudes into this analysis of past events.

The Council of Conservative Citizens has not yet made a visible and significant organizational commitment to mobilize its thousands of members for the Tea Parties on July 4, but from another corner of the white nationalist movement plans to participate have been brewing since the first week in May. On the Stormfront website, national socialists and others have created a discussion thread under the rubric of a possible Tea Party for Americans Coalition.

At times these posts have an almost cartoonish aspect, with elaborately construed pseudonyms and accompanying graphics--a number of which include pictures of the now deceased National Alliance founder William Pierce. But the conclusions are real enough. They will not wear any gear with swastikas or other symbols of their actual core ideologies. They might carry Confederate battle flags or other more generic symbols of white protest. And they will be handing out a leaflet with a relatively muted political message. "We need a relevant transitional envelop-pushing flyer for the masses. Take these Tea Party Americans by the hand and help them go from crawling to standing independently and then walking towards racialism," one poster argued.

Others had slightly different ideas. Several people said they would bring a variety of pieces of propaganda, with the intensity of racism apparent on a sliding scale. They would gauge the individual Tea Partyer that they were talking to, and hand them material accordingly.

In contradistinction, another message read, "I distributed WN [white nationalist] literature at the last Tea Party in Phoenix. I will be doing it again in July. This is the time and place. For those on a budget, I would suggest printing business cards with the web address of your group or organization. Keep it simple."

This band of white nationalists on Stormfront obviously believe that the Tea Parties represent an opportunity for them to strengthen their numbers, and perhaps gain a larger foothold among the grass roots opponents of President Barack Obama. This opposition may just now be starting to grow some legs. Not in Congress, where Republicans are out-numbered and remain out-gunned. Not in opinion polls, where support for President Obama remains high. Not in the deep blue states of the D.C. to Boston corridor. But in the civic arena, where a constellation of anti-tax, anti-immigrant, and Christian right activists and Republican conservatives are gathering their forces. Expect white nationalists to put their own star in this sky.

Liberals, progressives and Obama-ites of every description would make a mistake if they chose to ignore this opposition, or worse yet decided to deny it exists. And yes, Donald Wildmon and Ron Paul should wake up, before somebody comes along and eats their lunch the way Pat Buchanan and his followers took away Ross Perot's Reform Party in the 2000 elections. To understand that last point, dear reader, you probably need to read my book, "Blood and Politics: The History of the White Nationalist Movement from the Margins to the Mainstream."