Michelle Bachmann (TP-MN) has received acceptance of her request to form a Tea Party Caucus in the House of Representatives. In a report on Fox News it was heralded as a “victory in Congress for the Tea Party.” It was further stated that the approval was acquired in record time for a new caucus.
I’m sure that Democrats around the country are sending their congratulations and best wishes to Bachmann. This may be a masterstroke of self-destruction for the Minnesota Republican. She would be wise to consider why the Committee on House Administration, with six Democrats and three Republicans, would so quickly sign off on her collective.
It will be interesting to see how many of her colleagues she recruits into her caucus. Membership will present a measure of risk as the decision to join will require a difficult political choice: Do you associate yourself with a controversial army of right-wing extremists and radicals by joining? Or do you suffer their unforgiving wrath by snubbing them? That dilemma is likely going to limit the growth of Bachmann’s Baggers.
Alliance with the Tea Party is becoming more hazardous with every day. The NAACP just passed a resolution calling on Tea Party leaders to renounce the overtly racist elements of their movement. That was met by flurry of outraged Tea Partiers who insisted that there was not even a trace of racism in their curiously mono-toned ranks. Then they switched to offense asserting that it was the NAACP that is racist.
In the course of this debate, the founder of the Tea Party Express, Mark Williams, posted a “parody” on his web site that was so offensive he was summarily booted out of the Tea Party Federation. Only right-wingers have the audacity to swear up and down that there are no racists among them even as they are kicking out a leader for being a racist. And Williams isn’t the first racist Tea Party leader to get the hook. Dale Robertson, founder of TeaParty.org was ousted earlier this year for sporting a sign with the “N” word (misspelled). We have yet to see Williams’ response to his ouster, but it may provide some more fireworks.
So as Bachmann is putting together her congregation of Tea-publicans in DC, a fissure is widening in the heartland. And they were never a particularly harmonious faction to begin with. Earlier this year there was a Tea Party convention that was roundly criticized by fellow Tea Partiers for being a for-profit event. They even committed the sacrilege of bashing keynote speaker Sarah Palin for participating. Bachmann herself was scheduled to speak, but bailed out with a lame excuse blaming the House Ethics Committee.
The followup to that convention was supposed to have been this past week in Las Vegas, but they claim to have rescheduled it for an unspecified date in October. That was a month ago and they still have no announced venue or dates.
It is notable that the Tea Party advocates responded to charges of racism by denying them, feigning ignorance (OK, maybe not feigning), and hurling back similar charges. I’m going to let Benjamin Jealous of the NAACP show them how it ought to be done. When confronted with allegations about the New Black Panther Party’s offensive and racist rhetoric, Jealous unhesitatingly replied…
“You know, bigots come in all colors. We absolutely denounce the New Black Panther Party. But they aren’t in our group. These folks are in your groups.”
What would have been so difficult for the Tea Baggers to simply respond that they don’t believe that racism is rampant in their movement and that they agree with the NAACP’s goal of stamping out racism wherever it is found? The reason they do not respond in that way is that they know that racists are a prominent and influential component of their coalition and they don’t want to alienate them. The action they are taking now is merely a consequence of the bad PR they are hoping to constrain.
As the truth about the Tea Party continues to be revealed. Bachmann’s campaign for legitimacy will flounder. And while she is getting attention from the press for her promotion of the Tea Party, I’m more interested in whether they will provide the same level of coverage a few weeks or months from now when her caucus meets and she brings her gavel down on an empty room.