The right-wing reaction to the NAACP’s tea party resolution is not unexpected, but is nevertheless a misfire.
Judging by Sarah Palin and other tea party figures sounding off on cable news, the resolution did nothing less than label the loose-knit collection of conservative activists fascist crackers who also have overweight mothers.
However, this is simply not the case. Rather, the NAACP has handled the tea party with kiddie gloves, and actually portrayed the group with more respect than the bulk of the media’s coverage.
While an NAACP representative has told me that the official text of the resolution won’t be available until this evening, the comments from President Ben Jealous have thus far been even-handed.
“We take no issue with the Tea Party movement,” Jealous said in a statement released Tuesday. “We believe in freedom of assembly and people raising their voices in a democracy. What we take issue with is the Tea Party’s continued tolerance for bigotry and bigoted statements.”
A far cry from slandering every member of the group as racist, the NAACP is essentially asking tea partiers to formally denounce racism, a sensible request in American politics. It mirrors calls from conservatives for mainstream Muslims to denounce extremism and for Obama to repudiate William Ayers.
While objection can be taken with the notion that the tea party is tolerating bigotry, and I recognize that partiers have been particularly sensitive as-of-late to demonstrators with inappropriate signs, it’s not as if the NAACP is making it up. There have been enough photographs and instances to genuinely trouble an organization particularly sensitive to race. The fact that Dale Robertson, the owner of TeaParty.org, was pictured with a sign bearing a misspelled racial slur would be enough to warrant a formal decree.
Unfortunately for the tea party, the NAACP’s request provided them with the spotlight to officially kill the allegations and possibly win over new recruits scared off by the rumors of racism. Instead of approaching it with the grace of a movement seeking to take back Congress, the tea party did the only thing it seems they can do: get angry and make a scene.
Justin Duckham is a Washington correspondent with the Talk Radio News Service. He was a music journalist in California before making the jump to politics. Justin was a member of UC Merced’s founding class and graduated with a degree in History and minors in American Studies and Philosophy.