Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Don't call them racists

Joe Biden says they're not racists, after all. And I trust him. Still, this development was... ah... troubling...

Mark Williams, the tea party leader who wrote a blog post this week calling the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) racist, has been "expelled" from the National Tea Party Federation.

Williams wrote the blog post on Thursday in response to the NAACP's Tuesday declaration accusing the tea party movement of tolerating racist elements in its midst (see The Upshot's rundown on the week of attacks and counterattacks here). It was written as an imaginary letter to President Abraham Lincoln and accused the NAACP of being racist for using the word "colored" in its name. When some reacted to it in outrage, Williams deleted it from his website, declaring it time to "move forward."

The National Tea Party Federation apparently decided to move forward without Williams. Spokesman David Webb said on Face the Nation (Sunday) morning that Williams and his Tea Party Express had been pushed out because Williams' posting was "clearly offensive."

You can read his deleted blog post here. Williams says he's done talking about the matter.

Really though, it's important to distinguish 'being a racist' from 'making racist statements'. Or any other variety of false and offensive public statements. Or even anonymous answering-machine threats of violence. After all, who can see inside another man's heart? Let's review.

Step one: NAACP calls on tea partiers to get their act together and repudiate racist elements within the tea party movement.

Step two: Sarah Palin mocks the NAACP on Twitter for suggesting that "liberty-loving, equality-respecting patriots" are racists.

Step three: Fox gets outraged that NAACP would suggest that there any racists in the tea party to repudiate; links NAACP to made-up New Black Panther Fauxtrage.

Step four: The National Tea Party Federation kicks tea party leader Mark Williams out of the tea party...for racism.

So here's the question: If there weren't any racist leaders in the tea party, then why did the National Tea Party Federation expel Mark Williams? And will the rest of the tea party "movement" join the National Tea Party Federation? And what about Sean Hannity, who like others on Fox had a special affection for Williams?

Everybody who has ever listened to Arlo Guthrie's "Alice's Restaurant" understands how tough it is to go from staging a protest to becoming a movement, after all.

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