by CHARLES M. BLOW
Racist Tea Party.
Are those separate concepts or a single one? Depends on whom you ask.
According to an article accompanying a Washington Post/ABC News poll released on Wednesday (5/5): “About 61 percent of tea party opponents say racism has a lot to do with the movement, a view held by just 7 percent of tea party supporters.”
This gulf of perception has left Tea Party organizers struggling to scrub the stain of racism from its image, but those efforts may fly in the face of the facts.
On Thursday (5/6), Amy Kremer, the director of the Tea Party Express, sat down on “The View.” Prompted to disavow supporters who might be motivated by racism, she looked into the camera and said: “This is not a racist movement. We don’t want you here. Go away if that’s what you’re about. We’re about the fiscal issues and about being American.”
There’s no reason to doubt her sincerity, but there seems to be a gap between things as they are and things as she would have them.
The Tea Party is a Frankenstein movement — an odd collection of factions, loosely stitched together, where the head, to the extent that it exists, fails to control the body.
It has attracted hordes of the disaffected with differing interests, including some who’ve openly expressed their dark racial prejudices and others who polls suggest harbor more subtle and less visible biases. Opposition to President Obama triggers a political Pavlovian response among some of these people, and they want to ally themselves with others around a common enemy.
It’s unlikely that appeals from the top, however earnest, will expunge them.
There is no way to know how many Tea Party supporters — or supporters of any group — are motivated by racism, or to what degree. For instance, one could legitimately ask: to what degree is African-American support of the president motivated by racial pride, and when does that pride cross over into prejudice?
There are no easy answers, but blanket accusations and denials are worthless and disingenuous.
Kremer credits the Tea Party’s racial problems, to the extent that she would agree they existed, to an unwelcome “fringe.” This seems plausible at first blush. There is often rabble at rallies.
However, widely cited polling, like the multistate University of Washington survey released last month, has found that large swaths among those who show strong support for the Tea Party also hold the most extreme views on a range of racial issues. The fringe theory is a farce.
Their other strategy is to repress, deny and redefine. Following their logic, racial views not visible are nonexistent and those who raise the issue are simply projecting. It’s a fete of Freudian delusions.
Tea Party organizers may want to run away from the facts, but they’re not that fast, and the American people are not that slow.
Charles M. Blow is a New York Times Columnist and nationally-known commentator: “I invite you to visit my blog By The Numbers, join me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter, or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.”