Following my usual tradition, I wanted to comment on Jack Kelly's column today. He wants to emphasize how the administration raced to judgment, and he repeats a story championed by far right blogs that Think Progress edited a video, cropping out the African American wife of a Tea Partier. Now, Kelly did acknowledge that Obama and Vilsack (the Agriculture Secretary), and that Breitbart has not (Kelly didn't bother to mention that Fox News has not). Past that, I have only obliquely heard about the Think Progress video; the only thing I could find online (besides a score or more of right wing blogs screeds) was a video that included maybe a dozen self declared racists and the one guy with his wife. I don't know if it was changed from what was originally released.
But I don't know if that should matter. Should we play into the game of one or two people prove that an organization is racist? Suppose Shirley Sherrod had been racist? So what, this is one person (and by the way, Obama would still be blamed). If she was racist, would that "prove" the NAACP was a racist organization? Well, nothing, but defending her would tend to discredit the defender, whether the NAACP or the administration. I think that the right figured that out when they took Van Jones down in a similar fashion last September.
So how should we look at whether a group is racist or not, or can groups even be racist (well, the KKK certainly was/is)? When I googled about, I found a poll of the Tea Party we may remember from April. The NYTimes focused on the results that said Tea Partiers were both a bit older and more educated than maybe the stereotypes. I notice that the poll finds Tea Party members maybe 10% to 15% more racist than Americans in general. That includes questions like 16% say whites have more opportunities versus 31% US general population, 25% say Obama administration favors blacks over whites versus 11% US population.
Even that poll I would say only shows that some Tea Party members lean towards being racist. But what bothers me is that apparently almost two thirds of the Tea Party members polled think that taxes have already been raised (despite the fact that actually most Americans have received tax cuts in the last few years). As far as I or anyone can determine, the Tea Party, in favoring small government, wants to cancel any or all of the few remaining programs that assist African Americans as well as other poorer people. That is the place where I might say that the Tea Party might reasonably come in for criticism. These are sort of subtle criticisms, of policy in a time of recession, rather than of outright insult based on race. But that is the way racism has evolved in the United States. It is no longer acceptable to have separate water fountains, but people are worried about where tax dollars go. Should a poor black teenager who dropped out get training dollars, or an out of work white steelworker with a family? Or maybe neither?
One person, Breitbart or Sherrod is the dramatic example of racist or no. But their personal beliefs will not affect the income of thousands or millions. Yes, Breitbart's propaganda might affect the beliefs of thousands or millions, but a lot of those people were predisposed to believe one way or the other anyway. What I think matters at the end of the day is what Congress votes, which of course will be affected be how much money and threats lobbyists spread around, and what voters seem to believe and care about. So what policies the Tea Party agitates for matters.