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Highlights from the NAACP Report on Tea Party “Nationalism”

John on October 20, 2010 at 10:09 am

This jumped out at me as, well, absurd:

The Revolutionary War-era costumes, the yellow “Don’t tread on me” Gadsden flags from the same era, the earnest recitals of the pledge of allegiance, the over-stated veneration of the Constitution, and the defense of “American exceptionalism” in a world turned towards transnational economies and global institutions: all are signs of the over-arching nationalism that helps define the Tea Party movement.

So an “earnest” recital of the pledge and “over-stated veneration” of the Constitution are warning signs for America? That seems a bit subjective if not outright absurd. And while I accept that the NAACP doesn’t buy into American exceptionalism, that doesn’t mean there is something wrong (much less dangerous) about those who do. Then there’s this from the very next paragraph:

It is a form of American nationalism, however, that does not include all Americans, and separates itself from those it regards as insufficiently “real Americans.” Consider in this regard, a recent Tea Party Nation Newsletter article entitled, “Real Americans Did Not Sue Arizona.”

Point taken. I’m not a fan of the “real Americans” formulation and have said so before. I’m also not a fan of the “take America back” formulation, but I’d note that President Obama had no objection to attending an event titled “Take America Back” in 2007. It’s something both sides have done, not just the Tea Parties. Continuing:

Or the hand-drawn sign at a Tea Party rally that was obviously earnestly felt. “I am a arrogant American, unlike our President, I am proud of my country, our freedom, our generosity, no apology from me.”

There are a lot of Americans who were offended by the President’s bows to foreign leaders and his seeming desire to apologize to the world on behalf of his country. I suppose it’s nationalist in some sense to feel offended by those things, but is it really unusual or worthy of condemnation in this report? I’d bet there are more than a few black Americans who feel this same sort of pride in their country. Isn’t it possible to disagree with the President’s tone without being castigated for it by the NAACP? Apparently not.

The NAACP then turns to birtherism. I’ll stipulate this is nutty and so will much of the conservative movement which has been beating this down for well over a year. But I’ll also note that even the NAACP stops short of calling it racist, something many groups on the left have not hesitated to do over the last 18 months. This report would be a lot more credible if it bothered to point out some of the liberal over-reach on these issues. Instead, it seems content to glance over all of the over-statement on the other side of the aisle.

Next we move to a discussion of SB1070 which proclaims that support for the bill is a species of nativism abetted by the Tea Parties:

Tea Parties have been drumming up support for SB 1070. Tea Party Nation, for example, was one of the sponsors for a United Border Coalition Tea Party in Arizona on August 15. Tea Party Nation also joined the Patriot Caucus and United We Stand for Americans to support the event.[268]

Similarly, the National Leadership Council of Tea Party Patriots voted overwhelmingly, to ask affiliated members to hold sign waving events for one hour on  July 29 to show their “support of the people and State of Arizona on the day SB1070 goes into effect.”[269]

Question for the NAACP: So what? Are Americans allowed to hold a different view on illegal immigration from the one held by the NAACP and the authors of this report? If they are, then what are you objecting to here? All you’ve demonstrated is that largely conservative Tea Partiers hold predictably conservative views on border control. More of the same:

The link between the Tea Parties, anti-immigrant politics and birthright citizenship shows up in Michele Bachmann’s Tea Party Caucus in the House of Representatives. Founded in July 2010, the Tea Party Caucus quickly grew to include fifty-one representatives, all of them Republicans…Notably, forty-two of the fifty-one are also members of the House Immigration Reform Caucus in Congress–the grouping of the most steadfast opponents to any reform legislation that would include a pathway to citizenship for those without proper papers.

So let’s stipulate that the Tea Partiers are largely conservative and hold conservative views on immigration. Again: So. What? This report states the obvious as if it were a revelation of something significant.

It’s as if I wrote a report noting that all of the members of the Hispanic Caucus support amnesty of some sort. That’s a policy difference people have in this country. That’s still allowed, isn’t it? Rather than acknowledge that there are different views on the topic, the NAACP uses a few snippets of forum postings to suggest that all of this is about racism:

Opposition to “birthright citizenship” extends throughout the Tea Party movement, and is often linked to an explicit fear of the demographic transformation underway in the United States, in which white people are projected to become one minority in a country of minorities during the next several decades. A web post by a Tea Party Patriot activist using the name “No Anchors” was symptomatic: “We have to stop mexicans [sic] from having kids here and giving them citizenship. They will overtake us if we don’t [sic] stop this now. The 14th amendment [sic] needs to be respected. It is being misrepresented and no one stands up for this!! All politicians agree with it if they don’t [sic] change it.”[277]

Granted this view of immigration held by some anonymous web author is repulsive. Is the NAACP insinuating that everyone who supports border control is just like this person? Why else would they lead with a paragraph about the Tea Party caucus and then transition to this anonymous author? This strikes me as a smear, no different than the attempt to single out a few Tea Party signs and brand the whole movement racist.

It would be extremely easy to find examples of black nationalism on the web (on You Tube, on Forums, etc). Some of those statements are just as racist and offensive as anything offered in this report. I would not however attempt to connect that nonsense with the NAACP or the Congressional Black Caucus without something pretty concrete in between. The fact that the black nationalists and the Black Caucus members tend to vote Democratic or hold similarly liberal views on a range of issues doesn’t prove they are interchangeable.

But that’s the sort of reasoning I’m finding so far in this report. Over and over the NAACP seems to be cherry picking the online rants of anonymous individuals and using them to tar anyone and everyone who has ever said a kind word or offered support to this movement. I haven’t read the whole thing yet, so I’ll hold off until I do, but so far I’m not impressed with the level of argument offered by the NAACP.

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