Back in July, the NAACP publicly called upon Tea Party leaders to repudiate extremists and racist individuals within their ranks. Although the presence of such elements in Tea Party circles had been evident for some time, movement figures tended to be dismissive and defensive in their response.
Such denials may be a little harder to make following today’s release of “Tea Party Nationalism: A Critical Examination of the Tea Party Movement and the Size, Scope, and Focus of Its National Factions.” The report, published by the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights, is the first in-depth analysis of the main Tea Party groups and their various connections to extremist groups and individuals with past and present activities in hate groups. The full report is available at teapartynationalism.com, with running updates to follow.
“Tea Party Nationalism” examines the leaderships, histories, and activities of six national organizational networks at the core of the Tea Party movement: FreedomWorks Tea Party, 1776 Tea Party, Tea Party Nation, Tea Party Patriots, ResistNet, and Tea Party Express. In each case, with the exception of FreedomWorks, the authors found associations between Tea Party organizations and extremists spanning from anti-immigration activists to militia leaders to white nationalists. Groups with known anti-Semitic agendas come up often and prominently in the report’s 94 pages, which also catalog numerous vitriolic attacks by Tea Party members using anti-Muslim and Islamophobic rhetoric.
The report names several figures whose histories of hate speech or associations with hate organizations have been documented by the Southern Poverty Law Center, including Rosanna Pulido, associated with ResistNet; Dale Robertson, founder of the 1776 Tea Party and TeaParty.org; Roy Beck (NumbersUSA), affiliated with Tea Party Nation, Pamela Geller, who has hosted workshops for Tea Party Patriots, and former Tea Party Express Chairman Mark Williams, who resigned from the organization in June after a series of racially volatile comments, including calling slavery “a great gig” in a satirical piece he authored, and referring to President Obama as “a Nazi, a half-white racist, a half-black racist and an Indonesian Muslim turned welfare fraud.” Also mentioned in the report are individuals with links to the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens.
The authors do not argue that all or most of Tea Party activists are explicit racists or sympathize with the ideas and goals of extremists. Rather, they argue that racist individuals and groups have been drawn to the movement from the beginning; in most cases, they are forced out of their respective groups only when their beliefs and associations result in bad press.
The authors further argue that the movement as a whole is based on “a form of American nationalism [that] does not include all Americans, and separates itself from those it regards as insufficiently ‘real Americans.’” Furthermore, “a bright white line of racism threads through this nationalism [in which] race and religion are powerful determinants of national identity [and] mark the border between ‘self’ and ‘other.’”
The diffuse Tea Party movement is irreducible to race, and it is not motivated by “a full-fledged variety of white nationalism,” conclude the authors. But it is still evolving, and in often disturbing ways.
“It is as inchoate as it is super-patriotic,” they write. “It is possibly an embryo of what it might yet become.”