Few now doubt that the Tea Party is composed of a unique group of individuals. Their protests occasionally surf the lunatic fringe (spitting on members of Congress, screaming misogynistic epitaphs) none of which are defensible or excusable actions. Recently, the overall effectiveness of the Tea Party movement is being called into question with regard to the long-term strategy of the Republican Party.
Accusations of general racism by the NAACP, however, simply go too far, capitalize on the mainstream media’s sensationalist tendency and, at worst, flatly misrepresent reality.
Not to indulge in a history lecture, but Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt, two of the most iconic figures of the GOP, did more to advance the causes of African Americans than arguably any presidents in American history. While Lincoln’s efforts are well known to every eighth grade graduate, Roosevelt’s are less ingrained in the public psyche.
Roosevelt suffered sever ridicule at the hands of Southern Democrats (and many of his own party) by openly inviting African Americans (Booker T. Washington among the most notable) to the White House for social visits. Roosevelt also appointed African Americans to important posts within his federal government. Few now know it, but the famous “Teddy Bear” image resulted from a political cartoon (conveying not-so underlying racial overtones) depicting T.R. refusing to shoot a bear that had been captured and prepped for his presidential conquest. This act was interpreted by many as a metaphor for T.R.’s refusal to kowtow to those opposed to his stance on racial issues.
While the Tea Party may serve as an easy target for NAACP criticism, the accusers would do well to review their American history before spouting hateful (and, frankly, hyperbolic and likely fallacious) rhetoric.
Cameron Lynch is a former aide to three Republican Senators and president of The Lynch Group, LLC, a Republican government affairs and political consulting firm.