Squashing dissent with slander and libel

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I really thought that the media and political class were starting to get it. The giggling from tea bag jokes started to subside and “mainstream” media coverage seemed less slanted. The maladjusted schoolboy bullies seemed to be maturing. It turns out that the only thing developing was the complexity of their anti-tea party propaganda campaign.

Fresh off the heels of the extremely contentious health care “reform” vote, supporters of the political status quo (who, according to polls, are fewer and fewer) are ramping up the anti-tea party propaganda campaign. Most notable is the resurfacing of the toxic tea party racism claim.

The president, his advisers, his political allies, and their cheerleaders in the media have turned to the race card with disturbing speed and frequency over the last year. To write the tea party movement off as driven by racism or comprised of racists is both inaccurate and offensive to the men and women that have and continue to fight against real racism and bigotry and to the concerned Americans who stand up for what they believe in. Shame on the partisans that attempt to sully the reputations and silence the voices of these concerned patriots with such vile accusations.

As President Obama is fond of saying, let me be clear: the tea party movement is not about race. The fact of the matter is that the violent, racist crowds drawn to the tea parties are the leftist opposition. Of course, this is widely underreported. In fact, it’s papered over with articles delving into the alleged racist undercurrent of the tea party movement or citing non-existent incidences of racism. Take the recent op-ed from Colbert King at the Washington Post that attempts to link the racism of the Ku Klux Klan and the story of the Little Rock Nine to the tea party movement through nothing but the sheer vicinity of the two stories in his incredibly irresponsible article. Then there is the claim that a racial slur was hurled at the Congressional Black Caucus by tea partiers this past Saturday – a claim widely reported in the media. While there is speculation that the offender was a political operative plant, Andrew Breitbart has offered a $10,000 cash reward for anyone who can prove that this happened not fifteen times as claimed, but once. To date, no evidence has been found to show that the incident actually took place.

If it weren’t such an egregious hijacking of a serious societal concern, the Left’s propensity for playing the racism card would be laughable. In President Obama’s own campaign trail words, he and his allies are working diligently to “fundamentally transform the United States of America.” Might that be what the tea party movement is about?

In the past year, the nation has witnessed the unprecedented expansion of the size and scope of government. From failed bailouts, to boondoggle programs like “cash for clunkers,” to junk-science based cap and trade, to the wildly unpopular government takeover of the nation’s health care system, it is clear that the will and interest of the people are not the first concerns of those at the helm of our nation. In fact, they don’t seem to be the second, third, or fourth concerns. Might that be what the tea party movement is about?

Each and every one of these initiatives has been or promises to be proven a net negative for the country. What this congress and this administration have revealed is that the end-game to these and other policy initiatives isn’t the increased safety, health, and wealth of the many, but increased control for the few. But that couldn’t possibly be what the tea party movement is about. It is about melanin content, and the viewer and subscriber hemorrhaging media and poll plummeting politicians are sticking to their story.

Attempts to marginalize the tea party movement are really quite predictable. The rattling the collective cages of entrenched interest and nervous incumbents serves as vindication that the movement is having an impact. At the end of the day, most Americans realize this and see these attacks as desperate attempts to squash healthy voices of dissent.

I’d encourage Tea Partiers to keep in mind a quote attributed to Mohandas Gandhi, a fellow dissenting, non-violent voice: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

John M. O’Hara is author of A New American Tea Party, a book chronicling the history and principles of the tea party movement.  He is assistant director of communications at The Heartland Institute, a national free-market think tank based in Chicago, Ill.