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 JKarlUSMC@aol.com.