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The Tea Party's Legacy of Racism

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Though the Right's imagery changed, the message remained the same. From the Anti-Federalist days of 1788 through the Civil War and the segregationist South to hatred of the first African-American president, there was a determination to prevent the federal Republic from acting against injustices existing inside individual states.

But the racism that has permeated the American Right for more than two centuries continues to bubble just below the surface and occasionally breaks through, such as with attempts to make voting more difficult for minorities or with opposition to immigration reform (and the prospect of more brown-skinned American citizens).

At Wednesday's Tea Party rally on Capitol Hill, the overwhelmingly white crowd hooted at the mention of Sen. Rubio's name although he was just recently a Tea Party favorite. However, because of his work with Democrats and more moderate Republicans on immigration reform, Rubio became the Right's newest bete noire.

As Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank observed, pro-Tea Party members of Congress...

"...called to the microphone the Heritage Foundation's Robert Rector, who delivered a sustained rebuke of the turncoat. 'Marco Rubio,' he charged, 'has not read his own bill.'

"A chorus of boos rose from the crowd of several hundred. Rector mocked the claim that the legislation wouldn't cost taxpayers money. 'Liars! Liars!' the crowd replied. 'Senator Rubio says that [illegal immigrants] are going to have to pay a penalty, ...cause this bill is tough,' Rector said derisively. 'Boo! Liar! Liar!' ... 'Primary Rubio!' somebody in the crowd shouted."

While Milbank marveled at "the speed with which the tea party turned on Rubio," the behavior should not be surprising given the history of the American Right, a movement that has long harbored racists and resented federal efforts to intervene against slavery, lynching and segregation.

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To this day, much of the American Right has refused to come to grips with the idea of non-whites holding U.S. citizenship. And, there is now a palpable fear that the demographics of democracy might finally eradicate white supremacy in the United States. It is that last-ditch fight for white dominance -- as much as anything else -- that is driving today's Tea Party.

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Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at secrecyandprivilege.com. It's also available at
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in the public discourse. B eyond the racism analys... by Darren Latham on Friday, Jun 21, 2013 at 6:46:54 PM
Oh wow, more pick and choose bias and spin, spin, ... by Bill Johnson on Friday, Jun 21, 2013 at 7:15:20 PM
Not a single teabagger who testified in front of c... by Eric Arthur Blair on Saturday, Jun 22, 2013 at 4:51:03 PM