Intellectual Libertarian and conservatives ignore the reality about their Tea Party shock troops at their peril. New York Times columnist Ross Douthat is only the latest conservative unwilling to believe his lying eyes.
Inconveniently for him, the Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights just released a report sponsored by the NAACP. It's the most-comprehensive study to date on Tea Party nationalism that unequivocally refutes Mr. Douthat's and other dissembling intellectual conservative's dangerous equivocation.
Conservatives are already dismissing the report because of the source and refuse to address the study's hard facts.
No wonder. Intellectual conservativism was absolutely lost in a wilderness of irrelevance before the Tea Party exploded onto the 24-hour news cycle. Who wouldn't want millions of angry, motivated minions? What the conservative elite conveniently forgets is that indisputably what made it such catnip to the news media were the controversial placards, many, many, many of which spouted the most unabashedly racist sloganeering this nation has seen outside of a Klan rally. Hyperbole Mr. Douthat? Remember the president gussied up as a coal-black African witch doctor with a bone in his nose? David Duke was more subtle.
Obviously not everyone, not even a majority of Tea Partiers is racist; however there is unquestionably a racist strain in that movement to which the Tea Party, the GOP and intellectual conservatives feign ignorance. The Tea Party brand of right-of-the-GOP conservatism is particularly unsympathetic to the African-American, the poor and the immigrant. More than half surveyed by the New York Times think the government favors blacks over whites, a rate five times higher than that of the general public. From former Tea Party Express spokesman Mark Williams, to former national coordinator of the Tea Party movement Amy Kremer, to white nationalist Billy Roper, to Wood County Tea Party leader and "official supporter" of the KKK Karen Pack, to New York gubernatorial tea partier Carl Paladino, Tea Party leaders have a nasty habit of disseminating nasty, racist emails. (If you'd like to read the report's exhaustive list click here.)
And what about the coincident resurgence of the militia movement? Both fancy themselves hyper-patriots, infused with the Spirit of '76, and amateur constitutional scholars. Intellectual conservatives parse the "good" tea partiers locked and loaded at their rallies just for show, from the "bad" militia members locked and loaded for real, at their peril and ours.
I understand intellectual conservatives' hesitancy to call a spade a spade. Instead of a "no tolerance" policy toward racist speech Tea Party leaders and conservatives shrug and dissemble. They hope to tame the Tea Party dragon, harness its popular anger all the way back into power and then somehow jettison the most dangerous and extreme elements. History is littered with the tragedies of smart people outsmarted by their angry, fanatical allies. Just ask the Carter and Reagan-era CIA how well it worked harnessing the anger of the Taliban.
Now I'm not saying that tea partiers are soon to publically stone transgendered Vegans, but history tells us that when you wink and nod at hate the hate grows -- often into something uncontrollably destructive.
It might begin as a cheeky joke, but if we aren't vigilant, the joke will be on all of us.
"Sarah Palin Clearing a Tar Ball Off One of the Gulf Beaches"*
*A viral email image with caption found on various Tea Party, conservative Christian and gun-nut websites.