In an infamous campaign, segregationist Ed King devised a simple strategy to defeat school busing in Boston: “We put all the hate groups in one pot and let it boil.”
This seems to be the same recipe that produced the “tea party.” In an aptly titled book, Over the Cliff: How Obama’s Election Drove the American Right Insane, John Amato writes.
“Today they are hunkered down in a paranoid crouch convinced their country has been stolen from them by a usurper – a man so illegitimate they believe he is not even an American citizen, much less a qualified leader … their militia is made up of former members of the ‘Patriot’ Movement, John Birchers, white Supremacists, ‘Birthers’ and various other permutations of the radical fringe.”
They began as a movement bent on a slow lynching of Obama. Recall the chimpanzee cartoon, when the New York Post depicted Obama as an escaped ape shot dead in the street. They carry posters of Obama painted as “The Joker” with red lips and a demented grin. Tea party activists and sympathizers have all but pulled out the torches and a rope.
With slogans like “We are going to take America back!” this uprising of gun-toting whites has taken on the feel of a second civil war. It is no coincidence that Confederate flags are often on sale at tea party events.
Said the Rev. Fayard, Chaplain for Confederate Veterans, "The War Between the States was fought for the same reasons that the tea party movement today is voicing their opinion. And that is that you have large government that's not listening to the people.”
Seeking to capitalize on voter anger the Republicans drank “the tea.”
With GOP backing, the revolt now moves from the street to the halls of congress. Brace yourselves because the tea party rhetoric of divisiveness and discrimination may now become law. U.S. Senator-elect Marco Rubio wants to enlist states to enforce an Arizona-style immigration law which would give police license to profile Hispanics at will.
The GOP has also embraced incoming Gov. Rick Scott, who wants to drug-test welfare recipients, despite the fact that there is no evidence that welfare recipients abuse drugs in numbers greater than those who receive Social Security. But this is mild compared to another U.S. Senator-elect, Rand Paul, who argues for the abolition of equal opportunity laws.
These kinds of ideas represent dog whistle racism. Some of their programs are so obviously unconstitutional it is as if they do not recognize the equal protection clause of the fourteenth amendment as the law. In the past, these kinds of ideas would never make it to the table.
But the threat of our new legislators is that they will try to make their extremism the norm. Like Nino Brown taking over the Carter Apartments in New Jack City, they seek to take over. They want to make their “crazy” the new mainstream.
The Civil War was war with bloodshed. This is a war for hearts and minds fought in media and now in Congress, without bloodshed. But it is war just the same. The war cannot be won through a clever public relations strategy or through political spin. The problem is more profound. Nor is the enemy the people who voted for the tea party.
Many in the tea party movement have truly earned the name “Wingnut.” But they are not the enemy. The “Enemy” is the conditions that led to the desperation and anger the tea party represents.
Obama has achievements in health care — which begin in 2014 — but this is meaningless to people who don’t have a job. And there are almost 9 million people out of work. This is especially true for blacks. Black unemployment has been rising at a rate four times that of whites.
Before the recession, one-third of black children lived in poverty; some estimate that it is now closer to one-half.
We must wage war against these conditions with the same determination we wage war in Iraq and Afghanistan. And if we can invest $700 billion in TARP funds to save Wall Street, we can invest at least that much in jobs to save Main Street. Then we will win the second civil war. We will win without firing a shot.
Donald Jones is a professor of law in the University of Miami School of Law, where he teaches Constitutional Law. He is the author of Race, Sex, and Suspicion: The Myth of the Black Male (Greenwood Press 2005).