At this weekend's Values Voter summit, religious right leaders, who have long played to racial resentment, seem alarmed at how the overt racism of some of the Tea Partiers could harm their own movement -- decades in the making -- of politicized Christian evangelicals and conservative Catholics.
It was a mixed message, to be sure, given Rep. Roy Blunt's big laugh line about how being a Republican in Washington these days means having to "play the ball where the monkey throws it." But even as some conference speakers sent coded racial messages, others cautioned the troops to extreme discipline on matters of race in their messaging, "lest we cast our movement," in the words of conference closer, the Rev. Harry Jackson, "... in a way that will cause people to think that we're something that we're not."
Jackson is the religious right's point man in Washington, where he is waging a battle, organizing African American pastors to prevent the City Council from enacting a same-sex marriage law.
Jackson spoke with urgency about his personal need to have the religious right behave well on matters of race, saying, "I cannot win this fight...if even my own black brothers see me as a traitor.
"What I want to say to you is that the burning question in the media today is whether this growing grassroots movement is, the Tea Party movement, the morally engaged, who are crying out, concerned with the problem of health care, as well -- that many of us are cast as being racist. The word has gone out that there is, in fact, a racist element that is causing us to rise up and come against President Obama ..."