Saturday, February 06, 2010

Tea Party turns nasty: ‘It’s our country – let’s take it back’

The Tea Party conference has opened revealing what the London Times has called "a dark underbelly of xenophobia" beneath all their talk of independence and self sufficiency.

Yet the speech that opened the Nashville event yesterday, an address greeted with whoops and cheers from the mainly white audience, reflects a movement that also appears to have a less attractive side to it.

Tom Tancredo, a former Republican congressman who ran for president in 2008 on an anti-illegal immigration platform, said of the voters who elected Mr Obama: “They could not even spell the word ‘vote’ or say it in English and they put a committed socialist ideologue in the White House — Barack Hussein Obama!”

Decrying America’s multiculturalism, Mr Tancredo said that Republicans and Democrats had voted for a black man because they felt they had to. To a standing ovation, he shouted: “We really do have a culture to pass on to our children: it’s based on Judaeo-Christian values.”

“This is our country,” he declared. “Let’s take it back!” He added, to applause: “Cultures are not the same. Some are better. Ours is best!” The crowd, some wearing recently purchased T-shirts saying “Keep the change — I’ll keep my FREEDOM my GUNS and my MONEY”, loved it.

Whenever these people speak of taking their country back I become uncomfortable. Take it back from whom?

I really dislike the suggestion that something has been stolen from these people. There was an election and the party which they now seek to influence - the Republicans - had been in power for eight years, during which time the deficit had ballooned and America's international reputation was seriously damaged by an illegal war and by the fact that the world's only superpower had started to engage in torture.

Obama offered America a way out of all of that. America, unsurprisingly, decided to boot out the party which had led them down such a dark path.

I said at the time of the election that I expected the Republican party to splinter, in much the same way as the Labour party splintered in the eighties, with the more extremist elements claiming that they lost because they were not right/left wing enough.

The Tea party movement fit into that analogy perfectly.

They claim that they are actually independents, but all of the things which get them fired up are age old right wing canards.

Tancredo said nothing that surprised me. And neither will Palin when she takes to the stage later tonight.

She campaigned by trying to appeal to "real Americans" - which is obviously how this sub group choose to view themselves - and she will do more of that later.

But it's simply impossible listening to Tancredo speak, to ignore the fact that colour is part of what is enraging these people.

In his most incendiary comment, he invoked the segregationist methods of the southern states, saying that Obama had been elected because "we do not have a civics, literacy test before people can vote in this country". Southern segregationist states used to prevent black people having the vote by setting them restrictively difficult qualification tests, a historical allusion lost on few of the delegates present.

Tancredo's crime here is that he has verbalised what has, until now, usually been left unsaid.


As the editors at Imagine 2050 observed:

It is obvious that Beck and Tancredo are trying to push the issue of immigration to the forefront of the tea party movement, something that was explicitly clear during Tancredo’s speech.
Click here for full article.

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