By Brent Budowsky - 11/16/09 11:55 PM EST
Most members of the Tea Party movement are sincere, mainstream Americans with legitimate protests against government policy, some of which I share. However, what happened at the recent rally in Washington included something darker that has no place in American politics.
House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) should have clearly and unequivocally condemned expressions of racism, bigotry and dishonesty about the Holocaust in their speeches to this group. They did not.
These expressions of hatred and bigotry were visible, loud and apparent to all. Yet Messrs. Boehner and Cantor did not denounce them. They were silent. Worse, their angry, almost snarling demeanor in speeches could well be interpreted by haters as an endorsement of their hatred.
Since then Elie Wiesel, one of the great moral consciences of our or any generation, spoke out against the disrespect shown toward the Holocaust in these expressions of hate. The Anti-Defamation League and others of conscience spoke out. Boehner and Cantor appeared to treat haters as part of their GOP coalition. Shame on them.
Republicans and conservatives have a serious hate problem. For moral and political reasons they should root it out. In an earlier time, William F. Buckley successfully battled right-wing extremism that he believed poisoned the conservative movement and the Republican Party. It was Buckley’s finest hour, and the National Review’s.
The birther attacks on President Obama are appeals to racism and hatred that are unworthy of America. Why can’t all Republicans and conservatives say so?
The pictures of President Obama appearing like Adolf Hitler are a form of political dementia and hatred that should not be welcome in any political party. Why can’t all Republicans and principled conservatives speak out plainly against this?
There are plenty of legitimate grounds on which to criticize President Obama. I have done so, and will again. But the degree of bigotry and hate in circles aligned with Republicans and conservatives is a stain on the party of Lincoln and the philosophy of Goldwater, Buckley and Reagan.
Voters of the left, right and center should attend town meetings and voice their views. But it is unworthy and unhealthy when right-wing extremists, Republican leaders or corporate lobbyists support those who shout, yell and express hatred at town meetings.
It is proper to defend one’s right to bear arms but dreadfully wrong to attend meetings bringing guns to confront public officials.
As Chris Matthews has often suggested, the National Rifle Association should urge supporters to refrain from attending town meetings waving guns.
Most Republicans and conservatives don’t hate, but the Republican Party and the conservative movement have a hate problem. It would be in their interest, and the nation’s, for them to deal with it.
Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Pundits Blog and reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.