Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Stop Tea Party Racism – If You Can Find Any

Yesterday I posted video of Patriots Weekend Tea Party rallies from around New England. These were fun events with fantastic speakers. I had a great time.

But I would like to say a few words about some guests who did not share the goals of their hosts. The Tea Party must be making an impact because the counter-protesters are becoming more aggressive. On the Boston Common, I was confronted with this ugly scene:

Just as the speeches were getting underway at the Parkman Bandstand, a group of gentlemen from the School Bus Drivers Union, the Steelworkers, and other labor organizations joined us. They muscled their way in between the crowd and the bandstand, blocked the view with a bedsheet, and chanted through a megaphone:
Racist, Sexist, Anti-Gay
Tea Party Bigots, Go Away!
The noise was intended to drown out the speakers, including the Reverend Paul Jehle, who was attempting to lead the crowd in an opening prayer at the time. This was not an isolated incident. Bill O’Reilly reported similar unpleasantness in Oregon, Arizona, and Wisconsin.

I originally intended to use this space to express my indignation. After all, if someone shouts down people who are trying to speak, that's a sure sign he doesn’t have any arguments of his own. If someone shouts down people who are trying to pray (and I speak as an atheist) that's a sure sign he's an asshole.

But better writers than me have already made these points. Michael Graham of WTKK Radio, who, as emcee for the event, took the brunt of the union heckling, had this to say:
Boston Tea Party Rally: Goons Vs. God
(In all fairness to the union, I think Mr. Graham gave as good as he got. “Shut the Biden up!”).

Instead of complaining, I decided to reach out to the Left. Racism, sexism, and homophobia are, after all, terrible, repulsive things. There’s no place for them in the Tea Party. I’m sure my friends on the other side of the aisle wish to join me in eradicating these evils from our movement. Here’s how you can help: I put together a gallery of the signs I saw, both at the Boston rally and at a rally earlier in the day at the New Hampshire State House. Please look through them and let me know which are the racist ones, which are the sexist ones, and which are the anti-gay ones:

Restore the Constitution. No more undeclared Wars!

The Constitution Does Matter.

Self Reliance is Freedom. Government Reliance is Oppression.

Atlas will Shrug.

Who is John Galt?

14,000,000,000,000+ (trillion). Isn’t that enough debt? Stop spending & Stop spending my grandkids into debt.

Man is not free unless government is limited. – Ronald Reagan

It is not a tax problem. It is a spending problem. Stop spending.

I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. – Thomas Jefferson

Thank you for your help with this. I know you are adept at finding hatred where the rest of us see only macroeconomics and Constitutional jurisprudence. Once you have satisfactorily explained to us which signs are bigoted, we can be on the lookout for them at future rallies, and ask anyone carrying one to put it down or leave.

Ok, I had some fun with this. I sucked sarcasm dry. But there are a couple serious points in there that I'm sure you picked up on: 1) The Tea Party came together because of concern that the Federal government was spending irresponsibly and trespassing beyond the boundaries set for it by the Constitution. The notion that fiscal sobriety and enumerated powers discriminate on the basis of race, gender, or sexual orientation is ludicrous. 2) I meant what I said above, that bigotry is terrible, repulsive, and evil, so much so that no one should throw around accusations of it without credible evidence. BTW, signs with swastikas that, on investigation, turn out to be carried by counter-protesters, or the unsubstantiated allegation that Tea Partiers hurled racial epithets at Congressman John Lewis do not come under the heading "credible". Please don't bother to bring up the latter incident unless you're prepared to show me video of it.

I would like to thank the (unionized) Boston Police for maintaining order at the rally. By providing a human barrier between the counter-protesters and the Tea Partiers, they ensured that nothing more serious than noise marred our event.

Finally, I want to thank this guy for making the most important point of all:

T’s don’t have to be loudmouthed thugs to be heard. We just vote vote vote.



  2. Michael, while I don't think that enumerated powers discriminate on the basis of race, gender, or sexual orientation, I don't think that notion is ludicrous either. Many people believe that without federal government intervention to protect less powerful groups they would be discriminated against. I don't agree with them, but their position needs to be disproved, rather than dismissed.

  3. Suzie: Thanks for posting the link to this video. Most of the people on it (birthers, for example) are kooks rather than racists. An obvious exception is the man holding the sign with the N-Word. I did some research into it and found out his name is Dale Robertson. His claim to be a leader of the Tea Party movement is based on nothing more than acquiring Tea Party-related Internet domain names - he never actually led anything. He brought the offending sign to a February 2009 rally in Houston. The Houston Tea Party Society kicked him out of the rally and denounced him on their website. Given those circumstances, I think it is fair to say that Mr. Robertson does not represent the Tea Party.

    BTW Four of the signs in the video compared Obama's policies to Naziism. These are probably LaRouchies rather than Tea Partiers - that's their thing. Rachel Brown was a Larouchie - she's the one who Barney Frank called "stupider than a dining room table" when she brought a similar sign to his town meeting. You'll notice that the signs are pre-printed, rather than hand-made like most Tea Party signs.

    What did you think of the union antics at the Boston rally?

  4. @Michael and Irwin,

    While Irwin's comment is a valid point about"not dismissing a valid point", it is academic and based on what Michael said. What the original mention intends, our should intend, to address is not the validity of such the point but the fact that thuggish people have wrongly accused the tea party and showed up at the really to disrupt it.

    For intellectual integrity, It is incumbent on the disruptive people to prove their allegations, otherwise they are just propagandists there to disturb the peace.

  5. I suppose its the way you look at it. Perhaps those union antics were also fringe people and does not represent unions. Also, there were the town hall meetings that tea party members went specifically to disrupt and not let anyone speak and answer questions.

  6. I would be happy to debate any person or group over the role of the Federal government in prolonging racism. Perhaps we could do it at Harvard and I could ask why they hate Black Cops?

  7. Suzie: I believe the counter-protesters did represent their unions. If you look at the top picture, above, they had pre-printed signs with the union name and local on them (that's how I knew they were steelworkers and bus drivers). At other (more courteous) standouts, demonstrators confessed to being paid by their unions to be there, as you can see in this video from Fleming and Hayes fine blog.

    You are correct that there has been bad behavior at Congressional Town Meetings by both supporters and opponents of Obamacare. You may recall the blog I wrote about it at the time:

  8. Matt: I understand Irwin's argument that Federal intervention is not necessary to prevent discrimination, but why do you think the Federal government prolonged it? Are you refering to the reverse discrimination engendered by affirmative action, or some other unintended consequence?

  9. Sam: Thanks for posting. You got right to the core of what I was trying to say.

  10. I was referring to the Federal Government not living up to the principles of the Radical Republicans in the second half of the 19th century. I believe that the civil rights act 1875 was wrongly declared unconstitutional. If it had stood as the law of the land it would have reinforced the Fourteenth Amendment and prevented the "Jim Crow" laws.

  11. That's one of the things I love about the Tea Party - the members know their American history.

  12. This a great example of how we cannot take the Constitution as written as being perfect. There are times when it is worth the time, effort, and perseverance to amend and re-think. That is where my question is for the Tea Party, "Isn't there room in your movement for all the constitutional interpretations?"

  13. The conservative judicial philosophy is based on John Adams' idea that we should have a government of laws and not of men. That means a judge should not be able to interpret the Constitution anyway she likes in order to achieve a particular outcome (She should not "legislate from the bench"). She should stick to the text. If the text is ambiguous as to how it should be applied to a particular case, she can take the original intent of the authors (for which we have an extensive historical record) into account. For example, even if you believe (as I do) that abortion should be legal, Roe v. Wade was still a bad decision because the text (10th Amendment) is very clear that abortion is a matter for the states and not the Federal government. If leaving it up to the states is undesirable, then there is a process for amending the Constitution. Another bad decision was Wickard v. Filburn, which expanded the powers of the Federal Government significantly by claiming that a farmer growing crops on his own land for his own use was engaging in "interstate commerce". Wickard vs. Filburn opened the door for all kinds of overreaching by the Federal government, including the drug laws that are devastating our inner cities.

  14. There are other interpretations other than Justice Scalia. Justice Breyer's democratic interpertation is just as valid. There are those of us who lean more toward his thinking. We also think that the Federal Government should cut spending and waste, but feel the government is needed to ensure that we continue to be "We the People of the United States". So, my question is: You mentioned that the tea party members have many different views, so "Is it possible, or impossible, to be a tea party member if you support a view of the Constitution like Justice Breyer?"

  15. Breyer dissented in Heller and partially dissented in Citizens United. IMHO, there was no gray area in these cases; the majority opinion was supported unambiguously by the Constitution. So with all due respect to Justice Breyer, it's hard for me to escape the conclusion that his "interpretation" of the Constitution looks a lot like "ignoring" the Constitution. Still, I want to be fair to him. I see he wrote a book Active Liberty: Interpreting Our Democratic Constitution. Maybe at some point I'll read it and post a book review.

  16. You didn't quite answer my question. I am guessing your answer is no.

  17. More like, "Tentatively no, pending further research into what Justice Breyer actually believes".