The tea party movement’s backward march

After watching the Nashville convention of the tea party movement, it is clear that they continue to be a racist, red-baiting movement against health care reform, jobs for all, an end to war, and economic and social justice.

They are out to bring down Barack Obama because they see him as a force for progressive change and they are against progressive change. They are a movement to take our country back to the policies of Reagan, Bush or worse.

As the conference showed, they have few people of color in their ranks. That is because, while they say they are “color blind,” they are against any measures for racial equality and inclusion.

The opening speaker at the conference was none other than the notorious right wing bigot, former Congressman Tom Tancredo.

Tancredo told the nearly all-white gathering that the reason Obama was elected was because people voted for him “who could not even spell the word ‘vote’ or say it in English.” Tancredo went on to call for bringing back literacy tests.

Tancredo’s despicable proposal would bring back what was a vicious method of denying the franchise to Black voters and is now illegal, as a way to prevent the election of an Obama type candidate in the future. Looking at his audience, it wasn’t a surprise that his remarks were greeted with cheers and loud applause.

Tancredo went on to blame the election of Obama on “the cult of multiculturalism,” whatever that is. Tancredo would no doubt prefer to go back to a time when the cult of segregation dominated our national life.

And by the way, in response to Tancredo’s ridiculous claims, Harvard Professor Charles Ogletree made the point on the Rachel Maddow Show that most of Obama’s votes came from whites.

But the tea party conference was keynoted by a racist speech and no one there objected.

This was a meeting of people who do not believe that the last presidential election was legitimate. They don’t even believe that the president is a U.S. citizen. They are opposed to any government spending to help the massive numbers of unemployed, impoverished, foreclosed and evicted – all victims of the Republican-initiated Wall Street ripoff that brought down the nation’s economy.

Concern for the 40,000 people who annually die needlessly because they don’t have health insurance is not their cup of tea. The 30 million still uninsured should just perish if their coverage is by a government-run program. “Smaller government” is more important.

The tea party notion of “pro-life” does not extend to those who have died because of U.S. pre-emptive wars, and military spending is exempt from their opposition to big government spending.

The conference was an orgy of racist hate aimed mainly against blacks, Latinos, immigrants and the nation’s first African American president.

Sarah Palin, the $100,000 speaker, is making hay on the backs of this movement. She thinks she is presidential timber (2012). I doubt it, but for sure she will come out of this a very rich racist, red-baiting demagogue.

It clear to most observers that most of the tea party participants, as shown by their signs and slogans, are opposed to the president mainly because he is black.

Just like the old southern racist hypocrites that for decades ruled the South and had a big sway in Congress, the tea party movement is using red-baiting and anti-terrorist hysteria to rationalize their support for the most reactionary section of the U.S. capitalist class: the powerful insurance monopolies, the armaments industry, the anti-union labor corporate elite.

Sarah Palin has jumped in front of this backward march. She is part of the new McCarthyism combined with racist contempt for the first black president.

Her notion that Obama is more like a college professor and what we need is a commander in chief is another version of calling him “uppity.”

To attack Obama for being too smart after eight years of supporting a one-sentence president is ridiculous and racist. This all coming from a politician who has to write crib notes on her hand because she obviously can’t retain the most elementary parts of her own program.

Palin knows full well when she attacks Obama that she is furthering racial division in the country, which is an especially dangerous game to play during hard economic times. Her racist attacks on immigrants, that they are bringing the country down; her opposition to any government spending to help working families survive the crisis – all of these attacks give encouragement to the racist lunatic fringe.

Former President Jimmy Carter said the tea party movement reminded him of the pro-segregationist movement he knew growing up in the South.

Television commentator Lawrence O’Donnell said it reminded him of the racist movement that was organized in South Boston in opposition to school integration. O’Donnell said, “These people are more opposed to the president then they are to health care reform.” He recounted how the Republican opposition did not treat Hillary Clinton like that when she presented health care reform in the 90s.

Progressive activist and actor Jeanine Garofalo described the tea party movement as the rebirth of the White Citizens Councils.

This movement Palin has jumped in front of is really a movement that hates change and wants to go backward. Their aim is to help the extreme right take back the Congress in November and the presidency in 2012.

Whether they succeed depends on the level of activity of the broad democratic, multiracial, labor and people’s coalition that defeated Bush and his right-wing Congress. If they are activated on the issues of jobs, health care and peace the right will suffer another setback.

This fight cannot be won by Obama alone. This fight cannot be won by the Democratic majority in Congress alone.

Without street heat, without real grassroots organizing, we could loss the fight for change and be pushed back to the Bush era or worse. We dare not let that happen.

Consider the Nashville tea party meeting and the elections in New Jersy, Virginia and Massachusetts a wakeup call.

Like Obama did in his State of the Union speech and his confrontation with the Republicans at their caucus, it’s time for the anti-racist majority, for the majority that wants health reform, a clean environment, massive job creation, peace, and economic and social justice, to take the offensive.

Photo: Sarah Palin addresses the National Tea Party Convention in Nashville, Feb. 6. On her hand, her crib notes are visible. (AP/Ed Reinke)



Jarvis Tyner
Jarvis Tyner

Jarvis Tyner is the former executive vice-chair of the Communist Party USA and a long-time member of the party's national board. Tyner has been an active public spokesperson against racism, imperialism, and war. He has written numerous articles and pamphlets and appeared on the media, campuses, and in other public venues advocating for peace, equality, and the socialist alternative.