True Colors And Strange Bedfellows

When it comes to the Tea Party movement, I’m trying. Really. I don’t call them “Teabaggers,” because they find that offensive, and I think it’s politically stupid, not to mention mean-spirited, to dismiss them all as ignorant blowhards, foaming-at-the-mouth bigots, and purveyors of testosterone-soaked, Porky’s-style judgment and restraint.

But work with me here, Tea Party. Because stuff like this keeps happening in your ranks, and it’s becoming nearly impossible to take seriously your politics when your movement is marked with behavior that makes me want to undertake a ritual cleansing bath after every news clip, sound bite, and press release. Today, for example:

Tea Party NY Gov Candidate’s E-Mails Exposed: Racism, Porn, Bestiality

“An online news outlet in New York state has obtained dozens of emails,
many of them racist and sexually graphic, which it reports were sent by
Carl Paladino, the Tea-Party-backed Republican candidate for governor of
New York, to a long list of political and business associates. One email
shows a video of an African tribal dance, entitled “Obama Inauguration
Rehearsal,” while another depicts hardcore bestiality.” (Associated Press, April 12, 2010)

(The article continues, but after more than 400 original blog posts, I have managed to not discuss filth of the kind represented by our Tea Party pal here, and it’s a record I intend to keep. I think it’s enough to suggest that Paladino has a thing for girls who want a pony for their birthdays . . . )

But it’s not just the Tea Party that’s behaving badly. It was just a couple of weeks ago that Republican Chairman Michael Steele caught fire for GOP leadership’s $2,000 tab at a bar that featured lesbian sex and Beer-Nuts with Johnny, Jack, and Jim — that’s Walker, Daniels, and Beam, lubricating our nation’s self-appointed political and religious guardians of bedroom morality, probably none of whom were, you know, watching the sex show as part of a Sociology 101 class . . .

Now, Republicans aren’t Tea Partyers, and Tea Party supporters say they loathe Republicans as much as they do Democrats. But the Tea Party is stumbling all over itself trying to fend off charges that much of their anti-Obama fury is race-based as it faces the reality that bigots of the most offensive stripe have found a home in the Kingdom of Beck, Baldwin, Palin, and Dobbs. Trying hard in that high-integrity way that announces, for example, before scheduled Tea Party events that “outsiders” will infilitrate and use bad, racist language to make the Party look bad.

So much for the concept of “personal responsibility.”

I’m sure there are sincere, principled, intelligent and egalitarian Tea Partyers, and I wish them luck as they try to purge the movement of militia men, Light Footers, sovereign citizens, birthers, racists, Birchers, and the God-Guns-Grains crowd. Then the ones still standing, the kind, intelligent, and egalitarian Tea Party fighters, can spend their time in a single booth at Denny’s . . . wondering where all the cameras and microphones went. Because it appears, and this was true even before New York’s Paladino pulled his pants back up, that there’s no “there” there in Tea Party land, just a sad parade of uninformed, frightened white people wondering where in the hell their country — and their privileges — went.

Legitimate grievances against government, and there are many, really can be separated from the rage of spittle-flecked slugfest fans in funny hats. If in politics you’re known by the company you keep, you’re condemned as well by those hangers-on who insist that their particular brand of bigotry and stupidity are just what the movement needs. Unfortunately, the Tea Party’s resistance to leadership and hierarchy means that anyone who presumes to speak with authority against the haters finds himself or herself with all the power and potency of a fifth-grade hall monitor hushing the bullies between classes.

Meanwhile, the GOP, in what appears to be a politically strategic goal of demonstrating to the rest of the world that rich white guys get drunk and horny, too, finds itself entrenched in a long season of sexual misbehavior from its standard-bearers. Could it be that video clips of the Republicans’ last presidential convention, a solemn, strait-laced looking assembly of older white folks and sweater-vested Patrick Henry University grads, frightened the GOP? The Democratic convention looked fun; I even saw dreadlocks. And people of color. And movement, and art, and while it wasn’t Woodstock, it also wasn’t easily confused with the Lutheran Women’s Coffee Klatch once-a-year Husbands’ Dinner.

Has the suave Mr. Steele convinced his leadership that the donor base, heavily skewed toward the Religious Right, would appreciate any attempt to look far out in a happenin’ way? See, too many GOP leaders and politicians appear to be hell-bent for leather, or leather bars, in their pursuit of power and their pride in potency. Is that the plan — to show their support for hetero-normative sexuality by cheating on their wives with prostitutes, or demonstrate their magnaminity to “alternative lifestyles” by forking over donor money to watch women do what some women do in bars full of men who find it necessary to “understand” them? Because a lot of folks, myself included, find the hypocrisy unbearable. Wrapped in the flag and clutching a Dobson-signed Bible, it’s a bit much to have to listen to the Religious Right, synonymous too often with “Republican,” to the benefit and disrepute of both, pontificate about the “sanctity of marriage” and “values voters.”

In the Tea Party movement, we have determined know-nothings; in the GOP we have raging charlatans. Not a real hope-stroker, that. Democrats have their hypocrites, too, but it’s not the Democratic Party these days wailing plaintively that “their America” has turned all Sodom-like. And while the Democrats are hardly like the poor man beating his breast at the Temple door while the Pharisee boasted in his righteousness, the Democrats do appear to be somewhat less inclined to set themselves up as moral guardians and then fall with such a splash into the churning waters of sexual hypocrisy.

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