Monday, April 05, 2010

Tea Party Terrorism

Tea Party Terrorism
Now that the Democrats have passed healthcare reform, the president can finally “pivot” to address other issues facing the nation. He should focus on terrorism. It worked wonders for Bush. Every time Bush mentioned terrorism his approval numbers went up. If Obama really wants to rile up the public with a strong anti-terrorism stand, he can start by looking in our own backyard at the growing militancy and violence associated with the Tea Party Patriots movement.

In the days leading to and soon after the passage of healthcare reform there have been increasing instances of harassment and violence by Tea Party members and their associates directed towards members who voted for reform. Several members of the Congressional Black Caucus were called racial slurs while leaving the capitol; one was spat on. Congressman Barney Frank was called homophobic names, and those are just the attacks on groups who frequently are targets of abuse.

When this kind of vitriol and violence is directed at white folks by other white folks, you know the country is getting out of control. A brick was thrown through the office window of Congresswoman Louise Slaughter’s (D-NY.) Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) has received threatening phone calls from anti-healthcare and Tea Party protesters calling for him to die of various diseases.

The most frightening event involved Tom Perriello (D-Va.). A Tea Party blogger posted Perriello’s home address on-line and encouraged fellow members to “visit him and express their thanks” for his vote. An unnamed activist visited the home of Periello’s brother and cut a line to a propane gas tank that fed into a backyard grill. The Tea Party Blogger had mistakenly posted the address of the Congressman’s brother. Still, this was an attempted murder. Threatening a federal employee – whether a member of Congress or a mailman – is a crime and the government needs to step in.

I maintain that there is a grotesque racial element to many Tea Party rallies and that the anger directed towards the Obama administration cannot be legitimately chalked up to passionate voters. Let’s be candid: There are a lot of Americans out there that just hate the idea that there is a black man in the White House. Many of them are Republicans, but not all. Many of them are Tea Party Patriots, but not all.

I have been to Tea Party events, and I have seen how these groups encourage and foment a level of antipathy and racism towards immigrants and the president that is nothing short of a soft-shoe Klan rally.

Tea Party members do have some legitimate complaints that deserve to be heard in the public sphere, but if the party is going to allow itsself to be infiltrated by, or become a front for domestic terrorists and political extremists to organize, the organization needs to be monitored. Anyone who pretends that the Tea Party movement hasn’t come dangerously close to fomenting violence is either deluded or looking for votes this fall.

An organization as large as the Tea Party Patriots cannot abdicate responsibility by presenting one message at rallies and then claiming innocence when members enact violence in the name of the organization. Isn’t that how the Klan started? Or even better, isn’t that what Hamas says every time some of it’s wayward members bomb someone? If these patriots don’t get their own membership in order soon, the President and the FBI might be forced to crack down on their activities, and then this little Tea Party might be over before it even gets started.

(Dr. Jason Johnson is an associate professor of political science and communications at Hiram College in Ohio, where he teaches courses in campaigns and elections, pop culture, and the politics of sports. He can be reached at

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