By Cheri Jacobus - 07/15/10 09:30 PM EDT
“I don’t belong to any organized political party — I’m a Democrat” is an oft-cited, tongue-in-cheek Will Rogers saying adopted by many Democrats as a description of their political party.
The Democratic National Committee, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Democratic Governors Association and 50 state parties pretty much negate the premise.
The amorphous nature of the Tea Party movement is one of its greatest strengths. With no official national leader, no single spokesman, no party headquarters and no chairman, conventional wisdom should dictate no real measurable political impact. Yet the impact is undeniable.
The Tea Party isn’t a political party, but Republicans likely stand to benefit. The movement provides a much-needed, supremely effective “course correction” to a Republican Party that had lost its way. But rather than solutions and resolve emanating from Washington or the party leadership, it grew from the grass roots.
Regular folks became very active, starting about a year and a half ago, working to take back their country. Lacking faith in the leadership of both parties, and lacking the sophistication or budget of either the Republican or
Democrat party, their message and tactics seemed crude to the Washington elite, in particular the national media. But what the elites mistakenly believed was crude and rudimentary, and therefore something to be given short shrift, in reality became the purest of political messaging and strategy. “We want our elected officials to stop spending so much of our money” is pretty hard to misconstrue.
Tea Party activists didn’t just work to defeat those incumbents they disagreed with and elect those with whom they agreed. They actually started their efforts by going directly to their existing elected officials in town hall meetings. Widely panned and heavily criticized by the media, in truth, they were presenting those with whom they disagreed with an opportunity to listen and vote the conscience of their constituencies. Tea Party activists were giving their elected officials a chance to put the people whom they represent ahead of party or loyalty to a president.
What a novel idea.
Predictably — as with any insurgent, seemingly unstoppable political movement — panicked opposition reacted. In this case, it’s the enormous effort on the part of the Democrats to squeeze every last drop out of knee-jerk cries of “racism” by tagging it on the Tea Party movement (and by proxy, onto Republicans) when any one “member” of the movement does something ugly regarding race. It’s also possible that those with an agenda to discredit the movement happily infiltrate and commit such acts in the name of the movement, in order to deflect from its real message and subsequently discredit it. Of course, that is not to say there aren’t a few bad eggs in the group to begin with. But it’s not what the movement is about.
Democrats should seriously consider the blatant hypocrisy in ferreting out racist acts by nameless individuals allegedly in the Tea Party movement when former President Clinton, who was called “the first black president” by author Toni Morrison, recently defended the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) for his prior membership in the Ku Klux Klan. Clinton gave him an affectionate pass, claiming Byrd “needed” the KKK for political purposes while running for office.
If the media dare to actually commit journalism, when a Democrat or spokesman for the NAACP attempts to tag Republicans or the Tea Party movement (or anyone, for that matter) with the racist moniker, they should be queried about Bill Clinton nurturing a soft spot for the Klan.
Republicans, Democrats, the media and the NAACP should always call out individuals for actual racist comments and acts. But using the slur as a political Hail Mary pass when all else fails is an insult to those who fought so hard against the real thing.
Jacobus, president of Capitol Strategies PR, has managed congressional campaigns, worked on Capitol Hill and is an adjunct professor at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management. She appears on CNN, MSNBC and FOX News as a GOP strategist.