Last weekend’s final days of struggle to pass the health care reform bill starkly showed the ugly reality that is the “tea party.”

From its inception the tea party people have used every dirty trick in the book to try to scare people into opposing heath care reform – from the “death panels” to how “awful” a government-run health care system would be – even though that is not what was proposed and most countries with government-run health care have better health care then we do.

But those lies and distortions could not win the battle for them so they threw in a massive dose of racism, primarily aimed at the president, sexism on the abortion issue, and red-baiting to try to further confuse, divide and panic the people. Media outlets like Fox gave the fullest coverage to these lies day in and day out.

I favored a stronger bill, at least with a public option. But in that atmosphere it is amazing that even the modest final version of the bill passed. Those members of Congress who stood up to the hysteria, racism, red-baiting and threats and voted for the bill are to be commended. In our electoral system it’s tough for capitalist politicians to do the right thing when it might mean they will face a well-financed right-wing attack machine this November. 

The tea party folks, fearing a big loss was coming, were all over Capitol Hill last Saturday making their final push to defeat health care reform.  Just like they did at the town hall meetings last fall, they were in the faces of members of Congress, screaming and cursing.  

It was a shocking display of in-your-face racism. Congressman John Lewis, D-Ga., was called the “n” word more than once.  So were Reps. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., and Andre Carson, D-Ind. 

Lewis, the African American veteran civil rights leader who was beaten unconscious on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in the 1965 Selma, Alabama, march, said, “I haven’t heard anything like this in 45 years.” Clyburn, a fellow member of the Congressional Black Caucus and a veteran of the Southern struggle, called it “absolutely shocking.”

But that’s not all. When Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass.,who is gay, was walking through the halls of the Capitol building which were packed with tea party protesters, he was also verbally assaulted, repeatedly called the “f” word. “It’s almost like the Salem witch trials,” he said.

Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., also black, pointed out the sheer confusion of the protesters. “I have never heard anyone campaign for their freedom to be uninsured. I’ve never heard anyone campaign against Medicare,” said Scott. “That’s what you’re dealing with.”

The protesters carried many signs opposing any inclusion of women’s reproductive rights in the bill. In fact, bowing to right-wing pressure, the bill retains the reactionary restrictions of the Hyde Amendment which prohibits use of any federal money to pay for abortions. 

The stench of fascism is all over the teabaggers.

Not so long ago those bigoted, red-baiting attacks would have won the day. No matter what might think of the bill, the fact that it was passed despite the most extreme right-wing demagogic, bigoted, ideological attack shows that some significant shifts in mass thought patterns in a progressive direction are taking place today and it is affecting the thinking of members of Congress.

As the struggle goes forward to improve health care (single-payer, for one) and the big struggle for jobs is unfolding, it is imperative that there be a stepped up ideological struggle against racism, sexism, homophobia and anti-communism if we are going move things in a progressive direction. 

This is not just the lunatic fringe we are dealing with.  I don’t care how much Michael Steele apologizes for the racists in his party.  This isn’t just the “tea party”; it is also the GOP. 

Newt Gingrich, who is supposed to be a right-wing idealogue and intellectual, showed his true racist essence when he warned the Democrats that if they passed the health care bill, “They will have destroyed their party as much as Lyndon Johnson shattered the Democratic Party for 40 years” by passing civil rights legislation. 

If Gingrich thinks that defeating health care reform and eliminating discrimination and segregation are not moral and constitutional imperatives for a democracy but rather something to be left alone because it’s politically risky, he is morally and politically bankrupt. Is that what the party that says it’s for a “color blind” society is all about? If they win control again, is it back to Jim Crow?

The struggle for health care reform showed a lot. It gave us another indication of what we are up against and fighting for. All democratic forces need to be aware that we face nothing less then an epic battle for the future of our nation, and we dare not fail.




Jarvis Tyner
Jarvis Tyner

Jarvis Tyner is executive vice chair of the Communist Party USA and a long-time member of the party's national board.. He was a founding member of the Black Radical Congress and served on its national coordinating committee for five years.

Tyner was born in the Mill Creek community of West Philadelphia in 1941 and graduated from West Philadelphia High School. He joined the Communist Party USA at the age of 20. After several years working in various industrial jobs in the Philadelphia area, where he was a member of the Amalgamated Lithographers and the Teamsters union, he moved to New York in 1967 to become the national chair of the DuBois Clubs of America, and later founding chair of the Young Workers Liberation League. He was the Communist Party USA candidate for vice president of the U.S. in 1972 and 1976, running with party leader Gus Hall.

As a leader of the CPUSA Tyner has been an active public spokesperson against racism, imperialism and war. He has written numerous articles and pamphlets and appears on the media, campuses and in other public venues advocating for peace, equality and the socialist alternative. He currently resides in the Inwood section of Manhattan, N.Y., is married and the father of four adult children and one grandchild.