COLUMN: Democrats, media stereotype tea party

Tuesday, May 4, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 9:26 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, May 12, 2010

With the exception of President Barack Obama, who clings to blaming his predecessor as a "gift that keeps on giving," much of the left-leaning Democratic party leadership and its media-enablers have moved on to demonize the tea party movement. Alternately dismissing the rallies as an irrelevant minority of phony grass-roots (Astroturf) activists while describing them also as anger-driven, dangerous and prone to violence, their conflicting portrayals demand introspection.

How realistic is it to pan a movement as merely the typical paranoid ravings of the far right but also depict them as an insidious, hate-filled mob of vandals, religious fanatics and gun-toting militias? Seriously, they are either insignificant or substantial — harmless or destructive — in accord with the First Amendment right of peaceable assembly or a form of sedition — one cannot have it both ways.

A New York Times poll profiling self-identified tea party supporters found they tended to be Republican, white, male, married, over 45 years of age and better educated and wealthier than the general public. Now, I don't do rallies nor protests but, that statistic is telling as it describes me and most of the folks I know. Perhaps I am missing something but, I don't see us as imminent threats to good order and discipline.

Most of the anti-tea party columnists, bloggers and editorialists censure the tea parties and paraphrase the Times poll to their advantage. Two widely published syndicated columnists, E. J. Dionne of the Washington Post and Leonard Pitts Jr. of the Miami Herald have employed selectively the profiled findings to arrive at an identical and troubling conclusion — that racism is the underlying force.

While Dionne and Pitts highlight a portion of the statistical portrait, e.g., white, Republican, male, older than 45 and wealthier than most, it is odd they omitted that the poll found them better educated. Perhaps they found it more relevant to report that 57 percent of Tea Party enthusiasts "had a favorable opinion of George Bush" (Leonard Pitts) or that 63 percent (E. J. Dionne) "watched FOX News" to prove that aversion to President Obama's ethnic heritage drives the Tea Party bus?

I have been around the block enough times to understand that politics resembles a bare-knuckle , Marquis of Queensbury Rules-ignored, winner take all brawl. Misrepresenting the tea party phenomenon as out of control, angry, threatening nabobs and rednecks is a misnomer but not unexpected; however, the continued stamping Republicans as both overt and tacit racists is as reprehensible as it is untrue.

This president was elected by a majority of the voters, a cross-section of Americans — white, black, Hispanic and multiracial and from every socioeconomic division. The too often advanced notion or innuendo that those who oppose his policies do so because of his skin color is but a malignant invention of bigotry to influence the ignorant.

For Democrats to characterize as fanatics and racists as a group of largely white, middle-aged to older, well-educated, married Republicans who watch FOX News is incredibly absurd. This nonsense is further expounded by insinuations that these gatherings are virtual tinderboxes of rebellion, awaiting but a match to set it ablaze. Is it not a stretch of credibility to visualize assemblages of mature to senior citizenry that assiduously pick up and remove their trash afterward as disorderly threats to society?

It is expected that political parties attack one another for differences in ideology, fiscal and social policy, ethics, history of governing and a litany of perceived shortcomings as politics is an adversarial, in-your-face vocation. However, the "piling on" in censuring a movement because it happens to oppose a number of the president's policies smacks of hypocrisy when one recalls the eight years of the Bush presidency when dissent was considered "the highest form of patriotism."

After all, the tea parties are American citizens who not only have a stake in the country but also who have contributed by working, paying taxes, providing jobs, raising families and serving in the military, on school boards and as volunteers in a host of causes. They are not going away for they have authentic issues to address and the right to be heard.

Is it asking too much to listen?

J. Karl Miller retired as a colonel in the Marine Corps. He is a Columbia resident and can be reached via e-mail at

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Mark Montgomery May 4, 2010 | 2:54 a.m.

The tea-baggers are just a sad group of old, white, rich, malcontent republicans who hate blacks, hispanics, asians, the middle class and the poor and hate the fact that we have a black president. When they howl "TAKE BACK AMERICA!!!" they mean to take it back from the minorities. Luckily the middle class and the poor far outnumber the tea-baggers so they will have little effect in November. Mark Montgomery NYC, NY 10036

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Scott S May 4, 2010 | 10:53 a.m.
This comment has been removed.
John Schultz May 4, 2010 | 12:09 p.m.

Mark, congratulations on outing yourself as one of those tools who feels like using sexual slang to debase their opponents. I'm guessing you haven't been to a tea party (I went to a small one held in February 2009) and by golly, I bet most of the people there probably fell squarely in the middle class segment that you think has no interest in the tea party movement.

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Carl Kabler May 4, 2010 | 5:22 p.m.

Mark many people considered 'tea baggers' have little party affilliation and consist of all sorts of people who are simply tired of being lied to and stolen from, over and over and over by BOTH national parties and their lying swindling, puppets.

Though the RINO crowd IS trying to infiltrate and use many of these people for it's own shallow status quo agenda, many people have finally figured out the old Hegelian divide and conquer strategy of the puppetmasters and can no longer support any of the criminals and fraudsters at the top of EITHER of the Fed level parties.

It is amazing though to continue to watch people fall into the same old trap over and over and over where they will support 'their' party come hell or high water, doesn't matter how criminal or negligent 'their' party or office holder is, it just matters that it IS 'their' party and their 'side' and they have to stand with it no matter how much of a loser it is. It's kind of like just picking a sports team, and cheering for them no matter how bad they are, because after all it's 'your' team.

My suggestion: Find a TRUE INDEPENDENT who doesn't take bribes, believes in the value of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and will actually DO what they swear in a vow to do. I know that narrows the field down to almost non-existant numbers but finding someone of that caliber would certainly be a godsend IMO, and worth the effort.

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Janice Daniels May 5, 2010 | 8:43 a.m.

I helped found the Troy Area Tea Party this year. I am a working woman, single mom, tax-paying, legal citizen of the United States of America. I do not have a criminal record. I am heterosexual, I love God, my family and my country and I am very concerned about the destruction of our Constitution, the checks and balances that are outlined in it, the rule of law and our sovereignty. There is no precedence on the face of this earth, past or present that accepts or condones unlawful entry into any country; there is no other country on the face of this earth, past or present that would allow illegal aliens the benefits that are being granted by the misguided agents of change who are in temporary control of the United States government. We the People have a right, no, a duty to restore this American Republic and we intend to do so regardless of what misinformed people say or what they call us. JKarl, you need to join a tea party near you as soon as possible. We are perfectly in line with your moral clarity, your conservatism and your courage. God Bless America and the Patriots who love her.

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Christopher Foote May 5, 2010 | 10:06 a.m.

It is interesting that in Mr. Miller's column he posits that it is ridiculous for the tea party folks to be portrayed as paranoid and overly religious among other things. Cue Janice Daniels, a self proclaimed founder of the "Troy Area Tea Party". Now I realize this is anecdotal, however, her post is a rather telling contrast to Mr. Miller's preferred narrative vis a vis the tea party image. She references God, apparently to demonstrate that her cause, and by extension the tea party movement, is righteous and just. She proceeds to compliment Mr. Miller's moral clarity. I don't really know what that means, but I take it to be a subtle dig at secularism. In my secular view everyone has their own definition of morality, and a priori, none carry any more weight than others. She goes on to say that she is concerned about the destruction of the constitution, the rule of law, and just to make sure that you know how serious this is the continued sovereignty of our nation (whatever that means). Bravo Ms. Daniels, yours is a succinct rebuttal of Mr. Miller's claim that the tea party is not about paranoid delusions sprinkled with pious religious overtones. If you had also espoused your positions on guns and the role of militias in today's society, you would have been a perfect 3 for 3.

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Gregg Bush May 5, 2010 | 10:11 a.m.

I watch a lot of Fox News just so I can recognize when people recycle it.
I will encourage you to read the whole poll - it is 41 pages. Frankly, 53% of respondents characterized themselves as angry.
Furthermore, I find your characterization of Tea Party coverage in the corporate media, other than Fox News, to be disingenuous. Aside from a few outliers on MSNBC, mostly Schultz and Matthews, I have found the coverage to be fairly measured - including PBS's NewsHour.
It's too easy to get into an echo chamber and think you're a victim of a "conspiracy to malign" and fabricate a bunker mentality.
As a long time activist, I encourage you to keep organizing, don't get co-opted by a political party, and keep your skepticism.
Finally, I wish you could've have joined us on Wall Street, April 29th. I didn't see any coverage on FOX.

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Carl Kabler May 5, 2010 | 4:01 p.m.

The BILL OF RIGHTS is the one unifying principle for "Tea Party" activists,along with The Constitution, and IMO any candidate or spokesperson who does not hold this up as the Law of the Land is a FRAUD and a charlatan. We now have staus quo gatekeepers on BOTH sides of the aisle who are working night and day to try and dismantle the Bill of Rights guarantees that make America the unique place that it holds in the world. These people hate the Bill of Rights because it stands in their way of unleashing the totalitarian mindset they hold that allows THEM to do whatever they desire to try and force their agenda on the rest of humanity.

They now have a great fig leaf label they can hide behind called 'terrorism' that provides cover for them to try and hide their true agenda and intentions. They are simply trying to label anyone who sees through their agenda as *SUSPECTED* "terrorists" (WTH does that REALLY mean anyway) and if one becomes 'suspected', with no clear cut definition or even realistic cause, then the Globalists lackeys try and use that as a way to deny them rights including the right to have a gun for protection. BEWARE! This is a bait and switch tactic that uses sophistry to try and 'link' people together who have no real links or association, and can and will be used by the gun grabber crowd to further implement their goal of a world where citizens are completely unable to protect themselves from harm and must turn to the big Nanny State to 'save them'. Of course you'll have to pony up lots of your hard earned cash for the 'priviledge' but it's for 'your own good', just like every other Big Brother scheme. What a racket!!! Just look at what this Globalist Gatekeeper has in mind and the bait and switch language he uses to lamely try and justify it.

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Don Milsop May 5, 2010 | 5:00 p.m.

It was very interesting to note that the Tax Day protest in Honolulu was supported by a largely non-Caucasian crowd. The candidates who spoke in support of conservative values were non-Caucasian. The values espoused were conservative. They were not hateful. They were not racist. They were angry. Angry with a government and a set of values that will send us into bankruptcy like many European countries are facing after exercising liberal policies not based on reality and common sense.

To be a liberal, you must give up every vestige of common sense, logic, truth, and shame. To be a conservative you must promote the protection of innocent life and the punishment of the evil. Liberals promote the destruction of innocent life and the protection of those who are evil. For years conservatives have been silent. We had no voice to speak for us. With the advent of talk radio, FOX news, and internet blogs, we have a voice. We will no longer be silent. We will call you want you are. If you do not like it that is simply too bad. You can jump up and down and rail.

You talk about angry conservatives. You say conservatives promote violence. But a simple internet search reveals that time after time it is liberals who ACTUALLY commit violence. Riots, viscous beatings, promotion of violence. You can't find the news stories on line of any violence perpetrated at tea party/tax protest rallies by conservatives. You can't even hear threats of it.

But you will see time after time SEIU thugs beating up people, Republicans in New Orleans viscously beaten. Conservative reporters beating verbally threatened and physically assaulted. No liberals. It is you that refuses to permit free speech. It is you liberals who do violence against anybody who disagrees with you. It is you liberals who will viscously attack any minority person who dares to leave the Dem plantation.

Well, we're sick of it. We're in your face. We will use the ballot box, free speech, and the courts to beat you back down and to keep America a live and vibrant place to live for everybody that lives here or wants to come here - legally - as my wife did. As did our founding fathers, there comes a time to call you tyrants.

And we're just getting started with you. And by the way, after whatever crowd you gather at your next rally, please, this time, pick up your trash. Conservatives leave their rally spots immaculately clean. Liberals leave theirs totally trashed.

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Gregg Bush May 6, 2010 | 10:44 a.m.


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hank ottinger May 8, 2010 | 3:47 p.m.

Here's one of those rational, common-sensical tea-partiers. Claims he USMC too.

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John Schultz May 8, 2010 | 8:55 p.m.

Thank you for the anecdotal evidence that proves nothing. I'm sure similar instances can be found for every political viewpoint.

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Carl Kabler May 8, 2010 | 9:57 p.m.

Don, I agree I spirit with what you seem to be saying, but I find myself, that falling into that liberal/conservative label etc. Hegelian mindset is somewhat counterproductive to a people trying to free themselves of oppression that is happening from BOTH sides of the aisle. Big government control is coing from BOTH sides, Americans are being boxed in by puppets of GLOBALISTS who have no real allegiance to the U.S.and use both parties (at the national level)

Whether it's forced 'health' care, more taxes, more wars,more debt, more police state,less liberty, less privacy, less choice, more gun control, more lies, more manipulation, more t.v. brainwashing, on and on, it doesn't matter what words come out of the latest puppets mouth. The only person I see close to defending a free and prosperous and accountable nation is Ron Paul, and unfortunately those status quo RINO gatekeepers in the kept press (and his OWN party) seem intent on that never happening. They mouth 'accounability' and a 'love' for America, but how often you you see EITHER 'side' defending the *entire* Bill of Rights. One side is used to chop at the 2nd, but the other'side' is used to destroy the 4th, BOTH work to destroy the 1st (and use it against 'each other'), did I mention earlier....What A RACKET!

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Carl Kabler May 8, 2010 | 10:32 p.m.

Lberty, is more than just making a buck, it's about being FREE to live your life without undue outside influence (force), as long as your pursuit of happiness doesn't TRULY impact another in a verifiable and quantifiable way. It's the vision of the Founders, it's the ideal this country was founded on, unfortunately IMO there is no MS party that represents this vision any longer. Many talk the talk, I have yet to see anyone other than Dr. Paul actually walk the walk.

I'd love to see those that claim they are 'conservative' (yes I know there are some) get back to putting the idea of Republic back in Republican, I think groups like Campaign for Liberty and those who believe in being a representative republic are on the right track.

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Carl Kabler May 10, 2010 | 10:22 a.m.

To the "57% of Tea Party enthusiasts" who 'had a favorable impression of George Bush' or the polled "63% who watched Fox News" I have to still say, I don't think your seeing the bigger picture. And to those who still see our larger issues as 'liberal vs. consrvative' or rather Dem vs. Rep. I have to add IMO your missing the forest for the trees.

Yes at perhaps the local and maybe even state level we do find some real differences that may matter though many are simply based around 'wedge issues' which get talked alot about but nothing ever really changes.

But at the national (and world) level one really needs to look more closely at just who really pulls the puppet strings, who provides the cash and means, and just what the bigger Agenda really is. Over and over I see so many who are completely missing it, or even if they see it they either refuse to accept what they have learned or they are either to timid or afraid to speak out and just go along with the herd.

Please read the article below, I think it does a reasonably fair job or outlining the bigger picture, the real players, part of The Agenda, the role of many in the current "Tea Party' movement, and how these factors interrelate. And too where this may take us ALL regardless of any party affilliation, we're all on this ship, if we hit the proverbial iceberg, were all going in the frigid water, Perhaps even those whose lifeboats are 'Too Big to fail'.

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