I've read many tea party members and supporters decrying and denying allegations of racist thoughts or intentions in their rather vitriolic opposition to both the Democratic party and the Obama administration. They are wondering where these opinion might arise from, in other words, how we got here.
Republican and conservative leaders and corporate interests created and deployed the strategy of attempting to intimidate members of congress by shouting in town hall meetings. This has the effect of increasing media attention and simultaneously stifling debate and the exchange of ideas. It also gives the seriously unhinged a venue and an outlet for their fears, which by the way were implanted by the same parties who now exploit them. This was the watershed moment for the end of civility.
Out of that impulse and bolstered by long-established overt racism in certain areas of the country and the visual distaste of seeing a person of color address a joint session of congress as President of the United States, Joe Wilson shouted out his now infamous invective.
We all watched as Republican after Republican dismissed or otherwise stepped on the toes of Rush Limbaugh, one of the most bellicose and intolerant voices alive in conservative thought today, only to crawl back, kneel and figuratively "kiss his ring" (another word comes to mind...but I digress). This indicates to any objective observer that it is Limbaugh and Fox News who are leading the Republican party, setting the agenda and talking points, not the other way around.
It is Republicans who have called a bill passed by the majority of both houses of Congress, by members of Congress each elected by a majority in their districts, "an unconscionable abuse of power," "a violation of the presidential oath," and "the end of representative government." Speaking in such terms is both patently false and irresponsible. It does have the affect of demonizing the duly elected government of the United States and convincing those people whose grasp of civics and government is less than stellar, that the Democratic leadership and the administration are doing something nefarious, which also is not true.
It has been Republicans who have spoken of secession while campaigning for office in their home states. It was a Republican who chose a (patently unqualified in my opinion) Vice-Presidential candidate whose husband belonged to a secessionist movement in Alaska. It has been Republicans who have lately chosen to ignore the long-standing rules of decorum in the Congress by bringing their town hall meeting strategy into the chambers.
It was Fox News (Republicans) who promoted and sometimes funded Tea Party gatherings. It was Republicans that were invited to speak at these events and allowed to spew their particular brand of racial hatred and intolerance to those people assembled there. It was at tea parties and other right-wing events where guns were very much in evidence, another attempt to threaten and intimidate the public and ramp up fears against the government.
It has been Republicans (and often, the Republican leadership) who have accused their political opponents of being communists, Marxist, fascists, socialists, and totalitarians. It was right-wing militia and extremist groups the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) warned the country about in the first part of this year. It was a right-wing militia with the goal of murdering police officers in a bid to start a war against the "anti-Christ," a label such groups and tea party supporters are fond of applying to President Obama and the Pope.
Several militia groups have the stated goal of starting a "race war" in the United States and have tied such a war to "the rapture" or the "second coming of Christ." Glenn Beck, yet another mouthpiece for conservative Republicans has called the President of the United States a "racist (which likely hasn't been true since Ronald Reagan left the office) who seems to hate white people." Who was that dog whistle moment for?
The governor and attorney general of Virginia removed civil rights protection for gays and lesbians in the state. Newt Gingrich opined that the Democrats will regret their decision to push for comprehensive health care reform, saying "They (Democrats) will have destroyed their party much as Lyndon Johnson shattered the Democratic Party for 40 years with the enactment of civil rights legislation in the 1960s." Who was that statement meant for? Day's later he was backing up from that statement as fast as his little legs could carry him, but he got it out there.
Can you discern a pattern yet?
No Republicans are countering these statement of this behavior. Why? Because most of the moderates have been purged from the party. There are many very good reasons why so many see the Republicans and the Tea Party movement as racist, intolerant, and more akin to the right-wing death squads in El Salvador than to the party of Lincoln.
It is the same tendency and lack of responsibility that lead to the death by suicide of 15 year-old Phoebe Prince. These things are connected. If you can't see how, you have really got yourself a problem. This is the kind of behavior we are modeling for our young people. Neither is this racially suspect tilt to the Republican party a new phenomenon. Check out this article entitled "Message to America from the Racist Republican Regime" from 2003 by Jackson Thoreau.
As long as the people of the Tea Party stand beside racists and extremists while failing to repudiate their messages, it makes it virtually impossible to receive any other message or characterization. Don't then be surprised when you are labeled racist or extremist.