orlando-tea-partyAn opinion piece by Kate Zernike in Sunday’s New York Times reveals the true nature and motivation of many Tea Party activists. Surprisingly, they are better educated than the general public, more likely to be employed and more likely to describe their economic situation as very or fairly good.

So, why all the anger over healthcare, the economy and bailouts for these well-to-do malcontents?

Perhaps, because all the ostensible bleating over economic issues is, for many Tea Baggers, a cover for their real passions – race baiting, anti-immigrant sentiment, opposition to LGBT equality and promoting America as a fundamentalist Christian nation. Consider these facts reported in Zernike’s New York Times op-ed about the wonderful “patriots” whining and screaming across the land:

  • Overwhelmingly, they said he does not share the values most Americans live by and does not understand the needs and problems of people like them.
  • They are significantly more likely than Republicans or the general public to say that too much attention has been made of the problems facing black people, and that the policies of the Obama administration favor blacks over whites and the poor over the rich or the middle class.
  • 3 in 10 do not think Obama was born in this country
  • They tend to be white and male, with a disproportionate number above 45, and above 65
  • In the poll, 57 percent of them view Mr. Bush favorably ‚Äî about the same percentage in the general population that has an unfavorable view

It is time for America and the media to get real.

teapartyracism4-225x300The Tea Party has a large number of white guys (and Caucasian women) who are bitter because the old fashioned America they once thrived in is slipping away. Many of these folks are used to getting plum jobs and advantages simply because they belonged to the majority.

Now that America is changing into a religiously, ethnically and sexually diverse nation, these individuals are having to compete in a true meritocracy. The notion of the right person, rather than the white person, getting a job based on skills is driving many Tea Baggers bonkers.

A few of these seething, fringe activists are entertaining far out fantasies that they can return America to the 1950’s, or create a new Christian version of Iran in the U.S, through intimidation tactics or even outright violence.

They mindlessly attack the federal government, embrace the lost cause of the salve-loving confederacy and flirt with sedition. Such extremism must be stopped in its tracks, before America experiences another Oklahoma City – where domestic terrorists disguised as “patriots” caused death and destruction. (Fifteen years ago today, a delusional Timothy McVeigh blew up the Alfred P. Murrah Building, killing 168 innocent people.)

President Bill Clinton rightfully spoke out this week against the over-heated language and even traitorous talk that once again places America at risk:

Americans have more freedom and broader rights than citizens of almost any other nation in the world, including the capacity to criticize their government and their elected officials. But we do not have the right to resort to violence ‚Äî or the threat of violence ‚Äî when we don’t get our way. Our founders constructed a system of government so that reason could prevail over fear. Oklahoma City proved once again that without the law there is no freedom.

Criticism is part of the lifeblood of democracy. No one is right all the time. But we should remember that there is a big difference between criticizing a policy or a politician and demonizing the government that guarantees our freedoms and the public servants who enforce our laws.

We are again dealing with difficulties in a contentious, partisan time. We are more connected than ever before, more able to spread our ideas and beliefs, our anger and fears. As we exercise the right to advocate our views, and as we animate our supporters, we must all assume responsibility for our words and actions before they enter a vast echo chamber and reach those both serious and delirious, connected and unhinged.

One of the biggest reactionaries, of course, is talk radio host Rush Limbaugh who oddly said that Clinton’s comments calling for non-violent rhetoric “set the stage for violence.” Huh?

Perhaps, it is time for Limbaugh to undergo drug testing, because only a man who is incredibly high, out of touch or out of his mind would make such a loopy statement.

Truth Wins Out has been on to this frothing extremism on the right – particularly with the Tea Baggers – for quite some time. This is why people donate to Truth Wins Out. We are usually weeks or months ahead of the curve, whether it is highlighting Evangelical ties in Uganda, the dishonesty of the ex-gay myth or the danger presented by Tea Party crazies.

Yes, I consider the fact that mainstream politicians and the media are finally catching on as vindication for calling it like it is for several months, while many tried to unwisely whitewash the August town hall meetings — where thugs posing as concerned citizens — tried to bully lawmakers into dropping support for healthcare reform.

Anyway, on Sunday, several commentators on the The Chris Matthews Show round-table were quite clear about the imminent danger posed to this nation by right wing nuts. Matthews wisely pointed out that the Southern Poverty Law Center reports that militia groups and patriot groups have increased by 250% this year.

The political morning show on NBC began by highlighting some of the crazy statements recently made by right wing politicians:

Sarah Palin at a Tea Party Express rally:

“I’m not calling anyone un-American. “But the unintended consequences of these actions, the results, are un-American”

Michael Savage on his talk radio show:

“What we need is a vigorous right wing movement in America, not a Tea Party. And you need to face-off against those scum on the left. And then you’ll have a nation.”

Mike Vanderboegh, Freedomizer Radio, March 17, 2010:

“The only way we’re going to avoid this if possible, is to get across to the elites that we’re not going to be worried so much about shooting the folks who come to shoot us. We will skip several levels and go straight for their throats.”

The commentators on Matthews’ show showed courage by telling the truth. They stopped pretending that these short-fused zealots were simply good ole wholesome town-folk who had economic grievances (although this is true, to be fair, of many people at these rallies). Here is what the panel participants had to say:

Joel Klein, Time Magazine:

“I looked up the definition of sedition, which is conduct or language inciting rebellion against the authority of the state. But the statements, especially the ones coming from Glenn Beck, and to a certain extent Sarah Palin, rub right up close to being seditious.”

“The difference now is the presence of a television network – and I’m going to call it FOX – that allows its commentators – like Sean Hannity, like Glenn Beck to rouse the Tea Party. The biggest difference was that in the past when there were right wing movements that came up…the responsible, moderate leadership of the Republican Party would slap it down. And there is no responsible, moderate leadership in the Republican Party.”

Jon Heilman, New York Magazine:

“Joe’s right, and I’ll name another person, Rush Limbaugh…who talks about the Obama Administration as a regime, which has connotations of tyranny.”

“You have a right wing media that is encouraging a lot of this behavior. You have a Republican Party that is, if not encouraging it, is certainly tolerating it at this moment. And I think it is a very combustible and very dangerous moment for the country in that regard.”

Kathleen Parker, The Washington Post:

“It is volatile and it is scary. I think the Republican Party has to distance itself from all the fringe elements.”

“If something does happen, you can’t sit by and let things go un-dealt with, or you become complicit in what happens. This is where they are. This is a moment of real self-definition for the conservatives.”

Norah O’Donnell, Chief Correspondent, MSNBC

“There is a seething anger out there and Sarah Palin is stoking that anger…there are fringe elements (in the Tea Party). These hate groups that believe Obama is coming after their guns.”

“This will go on as long as you have commentators pouring gasoline on the fire…people are profiting off the Tea Party Express and profiting off this language.”

Chris Matthews, Host

“There is this common speak out there. He (Obama) is not one of us. We need to take back our government.”

“It seems to me there is this dangerous resonance all the way from the center right to the far right. Gun owning not to go hunting or to protect yourself, but to protect yourself against government.”

In responding to Palin’s “un-American” quote by Palin (see above) Matthews said, “Those words are license words. They are permission words.”

58952483Welcome to reality. When confronted with genuine extremism and possible sedition, we can’t bury our heads and wish it away. Doing so only emboldens these fringe elements and allows them to operate in broad daylight, where they can gain traction and legitimize their twisted goals.

The one element missing from the otherwise terrific Chris Matthews Show on Sunday was the recognition of the role religious fundamentalism plays in exacerbating this craziness.

Having just come home from monitoring the The Awakening conference in Lynchburg, I can tell you that many people are using the Tea Party as cover for their desire to bring about theocracy in America.

The role of fanatical religious beliefs is a crucial part of the “crisis of crazies” that confronts us. We ignore this incontrovertible fact at our own peril.