Tag Archive | "Tea Party"

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What Palin & Company Sowed, Arizona’s Innocents Reap


New America Media, Earl Ofari Hutchinson

The instant Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 18 others were gunned down at a public meet-and-greet in Tucson, leaving six dead—including a federal judge, several retirees, and a 9-year-old student council representative—Tea Party grandmaster Sarah Palin and leaders of her movement swung into damage-control mode. Palin offered condolences to the families of the shooting victims and called for prayers for peace and justice. Tea Party Express chairwoman Amy Kremer went further and condemned the shootings as “an attack on the democratic process.”

Palin’s and Kremer’s expressions of outrage are undoubtedly sincere and heartfelt. But those fine sentiments don’t absolve either of them of blame for helping to create the hyper-vicious, borderline-vigilante climate that has provoked more than one unbalanced kook —as the alleged shooter Jared Loughner clearly is—to blast away at innocents, under the guise of striking back at someone or something whose politics, ideas, religion, or race they hate.

That this country had entered a new era—where some thought it permissible to take the law into their own hands and bombard public officials with life-threatening letters, texts, phone calls, and in some cases physical attacks—was plainly evident during and after the health care reform debate last year.

Nearly a dozen Democrats and Republicans received threatening messages. Republican Rep. Eric Cantor got a bullet through his campaign-office window. Other legislators had their windows broken and their tires slashed. Palin didn’t help matters with her oft-quoted exhortation to conservatives to “reload”—complete with photos of her on hunting forays, gun in hand. Palin and GOP leaders drove home their message that political opponents—i.e. liberal and moderate Democrats—were ripe for attack when she plastered an image of crosshairs in a Facebook post listing 20 vulnerable House Democrats who had voted for health care reform. Giffords was one of them.

Palin sensed the dangerous line that she had edged up to with her depiction of Democrats in the GOP’s gun sights. She protested that she was not calling for anyone to slaughter them with weapons but to vote them out of office.

Palin was far from alone in cavalierly tossing about violent images to make the point that Democrats were fair game for attacks. Tea Party member Catherine Crabill, who ran for the Republican nomination in the Virginia’s 1st Congressional District, flatly declared that the right to carry firearms was the way the Founding Fathers meant for citizens to fight off tyranny. Failed Nevada senate candidate Sharron Angle was unabashed in proclaiming that the Constitution gave citizens the right to oust a “tyrannical” government—which, she cryptically added, meant removing her opponent Harry Reid from office. Angle backpedaled fast, insisting that she meant vote him out, not kill him. Whether a retraction or “a clarification,” Angle’s words had a definite wink-and-nod feel to them, and Reid was neither amused nor mollified.

The scariest threats from the right—and the deranged feeding off their hate—have been aimed at President Obama. A year ago, hundreds of Facebook respondents answered a poll question, “Should Obama be killed?” The poll was quickly yankedbut the fact that it was even briefly on the site for a brief gave de facto dignity to the bizarre and murderous question.

Obama has been in danger from the moment he announced he would seek the presidency in February 2007. He had the dubious distinction of being the earliest presidential contender ever to be assigned Secret Service protection on the campaign trail. This didn’t ease the jitters over his safety. Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson fired off a letter to Secret Service officials practically demanding that the agency provide all the resources and personnel at its disposal to ensure the safety of Obama and the other presidential candidates, notably Hillary Clinton.

As the showdown with John McCain heated up in the fall of 2008, the flood of crackpot threats vowing murder and mayhem toward Obama increased. This prompted the Secret Service to take even more elaborate measures to protect his and his family’s security.

In the wake of the Giffords shooting and the murder of Chief U.S. District Judge John Roll, federal officials have again tightened security around Democratic and Republican elected officials. This is welcome. But it does not address the climate of fear and hate that ultra-conservative extremists and unreconstructed bigots and hate-mongers have created. Unbalanced individuals feel they have license to send a hate message, toss a brick, or—as the tragic events in Tucson amply prove— rampage against a public official and other innocents caught in the crossfire. Palin and company can’t evade blame for that.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He hosts nationally broadcast political affairs radio talk shows on Pacifica and KTYM Radio Los Angeles.
Follow Earl Ofari Hutchinson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/earlhutchinson and onthehutchinsonreportnews.com and view The Hutchinson Report on Twitter: http://twitter.com/earlhutchinson

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Why the New Census Figures Do Not Doom Democrats


New America Media, Commentary, Earl Ofari Hutchinson,

GOP strategists are giddy over the new census figures, which show that, based on population shifts over the past decade, a substantial number of new congressional and state legislative seats will be carved out in Texas and other western and southwestern states.

At the same time, the shift means that seats will be lost in the Northeast and parts of the Midwest. Not surprisingly, Republicans are ecstatic at the prospect of solidifying their hold on the House with new seats in GOP-leaning districts in Texas, Nevada, and Florida.

But the conventional wisdom that the 2012 redistricting will lead to long-term GOP gains is a fallacy—and Nevada is the best example of why the right-wing talking heads are wrong.

Nevada’s population soared by more than 30 percent over the past decade—three times the growth rate of the U.S. population as a whole. George W. Bush won the state in 2000 and 2004, which led the pundits to place it squarely in the GOP column. The supposed redness of Nevada’s electorate was the major reason Republicans (and plenty of other people) believed that GOP senatorial candidate and Tea Party darling Sharron Angle had a real shot at unseating the embattled Senate Minority leader Harry Reid, despite her extremist, even wacky, views. The pundits were wrong. Reid won re-election by a comfortable margin, thanks to the overwhelming support of one group of voters: Latinos.

According to the new census figures, Latinos accounted for much of the U.S. population gain since 2000. They make up more than 10 percent of Nevada’s electorate, and over the next two years, their numbers will continue to grow. They backed Reid in part because of Angle’s hard-line policy positions and ugly remarks that depicted Latino immigrants as criminals and drags on the state’s recession-ravaged economy. Reid’s victory and the increase in the state’s Latino population numbers mean that Nevada is neither red nor blue. It’s a battleground state, up for grabs by whichever party and candidate will listen to this critically important voting bloc.

Latino voters in Colorado, Washington, and California are the reason the Senate stayed in Democratic hands in a GOP landslide year. Their voting strength is increasing in Florida and Texas as well. While the GOP did score victories by running Latino candidates in Florida (new U.S. Senator Marco Rubio), Nevada and New Mexico (where David Sandoval and Susana Martinez, respectively, were elected governor), there is no evidence that Latino voters outside Florida’s conservative-leaning Cuban population are shifting to the GOP. (In fact, neither Sandoval nor Martinez carried the Latino vote in their states.) Despite their frustration over Congress’s failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform and its torpedoing of the DREAM Act, Latino leaders have laid the blame almost entirely at Republicans’ feet. Meanwhile, President Obama’s Latino support remains solid. GOP leaders and Tea Party activists have made it clear that they are as hostile as ever to immigration reform that guarantees a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented workers. That opposition is unlikely to change in the run-up to the 2012 elections.

Democrats have another backstop to counter any aggressive move by GOP-dominated legislatures in key states to gerrymander districts to help Republicans candidates: the Voting Rights Act. Despite a fierce, decades-long assault by conservatives, the act—designed to protect the rights of ethnic minorities— still covers virtually all nine states, mostly in the South, and portions of another half-dozen states around the country. In the past, civil rights groups have used the Voting Rights Act to file challenges to redistricting plans in Texas and elsewhere. As long as Obama remains in the White House, the Justice Department is certain to scrutinize—and, where appropriate, fight—redistricting plans that unfairly limit the voting power of people of color.

This does not mean that the Democrats are totally on safe ground for 2012. Even without the changing census numbers and redistricting threat, Republicans have shifted the political balance of power in the crucial battleground states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Indiana, Maine, Wisconsin, New Mexico, Virginia and Iowa. These states now have Republican governors and GOP majorities in their legislatures—a marked contrast to 2008, when Obama carried them all to sweep into the White House. The projection is that these states will lose as many as six electoral votes to states that GOP presidential contender John McCain won in 2008. This could complicate the electoral arithmetic if Obama finds himself in a tight re-election race.

But again, these are just abstract numbers at this point in political time. Many variables will come into play between now and November 2012 that could render the political affiliation of who controls or doesn’t control a congressional district less important than the health of the economy, Obama’s accomplishments, voter attitudes and turnout. The shifting demographics are merely numerical bellwethers of America’s population, its increasing diversity, and the impact of that diversity on politics. The census change is not the harbinger of political doom for the Democrats that Republicans are hoping for.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He hosts nationally broadcast political affairs radio talk shows on Pacifica and KTYM Radio Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter:http://twitter.com/earlhutchinson and on thehutchinsonreportnews.com and view The Hutchinson Report on http://www.ustream.tv/channel/hutchinson-report-tv


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Tea Baggers in the Black Caucus—What’s the Point?


WASHINGTON, D.C. — The question of who should or shouldn’t be in the Congressional Black Caucus only came up when new Tea Party–backed n GOP congressmen Allen West (R-Florida) and Tim Scott (R-South Carolina) were asked whether they intended to join.

The short answer to the question who should be a CBC member is: any African-American who sits in Congress. The name is the Congressional Black Caucus, not the Congressional Black Democratic Caucus. CBC chair Barbara Lee unhesitatingly tossed out the olive branch of membership and said West and Scott are more than welcome to join.

But in fact, there are several reasons the issue is muddy. Scott and West have sent mixed signals about whether they want in. West says yes. Scott has virtually said no, citing his allegedly rancorous experiences with black Democrats while he was a member of the South Carolina Legislative Black Caucus.

But ruffled personal feelings are just part of the equation. There’s the issue of party affiliation, ideology, and the even larger question of what most African-Americans expect from their representatives.

Scott and West are not merely political outsiders. They are firmly committed to pushing the Tea Party’s agenda in Congress, as they have promised in countless political speeches, pep rallies, and Tea Party confabs. They see nothing wrong in being—and, in fact, take great pride in their role as—the desperately needed black face and voice of the Tea Party and of GOP ultra-conservatives in and out of Congress.

Tea Party leaders have made no effort to mask their one overriding aim: to do everything politically possible to ensure that the Obama presidency is failed, flawed, and one-term.

Scott and West share that goal. This makes them diametrically opposed to the political and philosophical goals of the current CBC membership.

The CBC, counter to the widespread impression, is not a political monolith of knee-jerk, reflexive liberals. Its ranks also include moderates and even conservatives. At times its members have split votes on legislation.

But no matter what their political differences, on some issues, they march in lockstep in support of President Obama and health care reform; affirmative action; increased government spending on education, jobs, and social programs; tight reins on Wall Street and the banking industry; an end to Bush tax cuts for the rich; a massive urban reconstruction program; and a wind-down of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. GOP leaders and the Tea Party stand for the exact opposite of those goals.

Then there’s the CBC’s mostly black constituency. True, many African-Americans voice frustration, displeasure, and even anger at the Democratic Party for taking the black vote for granted and for saying little (and doing less) on issues ranging from criminal justice reform to the education crisis in inner-city schools. But black voters have been the bedrock of the Democratic Party for a half-century. They will not break ranks with the party at this juncture for two good reasons. The Democrats are still the only political game in town when it comes to giving political voice to their needs.

The GOP, despite occasional lip service to diversity, has shown in word and deed that it is cold, indifferent, and hostile to black interests. Its bread-and-butter constituency for five decades has been white conservatives in the Deep South and heartland, as well as seniors, blue-collar worker, rural voters, and—at times—ultra-conservative Democrats and independents.

GOP leaders have long known that these voters can be easily riled up by the emotional wedge issues: abortion, family values, gay marriage and tax cuts. During the yearlong debate on health care reform and in the months since the bill’s passage, they whipped up their hysteria and borderline racism against the new law. This was glaringly apparent in the ferocity and bile spouted by the shock troops that GOP leaders, in consort with the Tea Baggers, brought out to harangue, harass and bully Democrat legislators on the eve of the health care vote. These are the very same voters that GOP politicians—Nixon, Reagan, Bush Sr. and W. Bush, McCain, as well as legions of governors, senators and members of Congress—have called on to seize and maintain regional and national political dominance for decades.

Scott and West will say and do nothing to change this situation. Their goal is to do everything to return the GOP to power in all areas of government. Should the two new congressmen be invited to join the CBC? Of course. Will they accept the invitation to join? More than likely not. The two men are more than just a bad fit with the CBC. They represent everything the CBC is against.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst.  Follow Earl Ofari Hutchinson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/earlhutchinson

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Tea Party’s Racism Deeper Than One Black Woman’s Confession


Fox News, and the gaggle of rightside bloggers, and assorted tea party activists were delirous when they dug up an old tape of Shirley Sherrod. The Agriculture Department’s director of rural development in Georgia was supposedly getting caught with her racism hanging down.

The tape was of a speech Sherrod made at a local NAACP banquet on March 27. Her alleged racist sin was that she admitted that she did less to help a needy white farmer than she could—it happened 20 years earlier.

The cause of the right wing’s delirium was two-fold. They could now joyously shout “gotcha” at the NAACP, black Democrats and civil rights leaders that have relentlessly pounded the Tea Party and conservatives for saying and doing nothing about the racists in their midst. They got even greater joy and satisfaction from Sherrod’s plight since this gave them a chance to rant that this is proof that there’s a double standard among blacks when it comes to dealing with race. Put simply, blacks are quick on the trigger to rail at whites for any perceived racial transgression, but are stone silent, or secretly or openly condone, even revel in racial bigotry, against whites.

Any way you look at the race issue, this is baloney. Start with Sherrod and what she actually said and did. She didn’t resort to the stock code words, misdirection, feints, or dodges that GOP and Tea Party has honed to a fine art for decades to stoke white fears and bigotry. She spoke at a public forum, and in what sounded more self-confessional, than boast, took herself to task for her own racial favoritism. “I learned about myself and how far we still have to go.”

Sherrod said much more in her talk than what was quoted, and that was to make clear that her’s was a personal teaching moment, an epiphany. For her it was a humbling lesson on how bigotry can corrupt and damn anyone, even someone who herself has been the target of bigotry. Sherrod has certainly dealt with that bigotry first hand in the blatant and shameless treatment of black farmers. The issue was partially resolved this past February when the Obama administration announced it agreed to a $1.25 billion settlement to resolve charges by thousands of black farmers that the Agriculture Department discriminated against them in loan programs for decades. The racist treatment of black farmers was not the act of one local official in one state.

This was the systematic, and deliberate racial targeting of black farmers by the official government agency charged with administering loans and programs for farmers. Thousands of black farmers lost their farms and land as a result of the officially sanctioned discriminatory lending practices.

The settlement didn’t end the outrage. Congress had to approve the settlement by the end of March, 2010. It cavalierly left for Spring break before approving the settlement at the time.

Sherrod’s full speech which might have provided more insight into why she did what she did and how she learned from her act was nowhere to be heard in the self-serving, edited version that Fox News broadcasted. A humiliated and embarrassed Sherrod promptly offered her resignation. It was accepted by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

NAACP president Ben Jealous quickly issued a statement applauding Sherrod’s resignation. But just as quickly the NAACP realized it was “snookered” by Fox News  and the right-wing echo chamber on Sherrod’s alleged racial sin and wisely reversed its initial position applauding her resignation. Now Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack should do the same and immediately reinstate Sherrod.

Sherrod had a double misfortune. Not only was she targeted by conservatives for ouster. She was used by them as a pawn to hit back at the NAACP and civil rights organizations that have rightly put much heat to the GOP and Tea Party activists for their very real racism and perpetual race card play.

The Sherrod debacle should be more than a teachable moment for a government official and a wronged employee. It is yet another object lesson of how organized, agenda driven, right-wing ideologues can bully, badger, intimidate and ultimately frighten government officials into violating all precepts of fairness, due process, and just good common sense, and rush to racial judgment about a black official.

Sherrod‘s action against the white farmer, of course, was indefensible, and she was the first to admit it. But it was the regrettable act of one person, one place, one time. This hardly rises to the level of an institutional racial high crime and misdemeanor. The same can’t be said about the GOP and the Tea Party, who have yet to pay the same price for their bigotry.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He hosts a nationally-broadcast political affairs radio talk show on Pacifica and KTYM Radio Los Angeles.

Follow Earl Ofari Hutchinson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/earlhutchinson

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NAACP Condemns Tea Party “Racist Element”


KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Leaders of the country’s largest civil rights organization accused tea party activists on Tuesday of tolerating bigotry and approved a resolution condemning racism within the political movement.

The resolution was adopted during the annual convention in Kansas City of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, spokesman Chris Fleming said. Local tea party organizers disputed claims of racism and called on the NAACP to withdraw the resolution.

Debate was mostly closed to the public, but the final version of the resolution “calls on the tea party and all people of good will to repudiate the racist element and activities within the tea party,” said Hilary Shelton, director of the NAACP’s Washington bureau.

“I hope it will empower the tea party to actually look at itself and see that there are those who are noticing things that I think most tea partiers don’t want,” he said.

Read more here.

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