Charges of Racism Undeserved–And Hard to Defend

Tainting the tea party movement with the charge of racism is proving to be an effective strategy for Democrats. There is no evidence that tea party adherents are any more racist than other Republicans, and indeed many other Americans. But getting them to spend their time purging their ranks and having candidates distance themselves should help Democrats win in November. Having one’s opponent rebut charges of racism is far better than discussing joblessness. — Mary Frances Berry

This is a rather poignant statement from Mary Frances Berry. She summarizes the strategy that is most effective in discrediting one’s critics–a strategy I have discussed on numerous occasions. The method? That of labeling an opponent as holding some socially unacceptable position that is nearly impossible to refute; this is a most effective strategy because any arguments against such charges are not believed due to the heinous nature of the charge.

The Tea Party has been called out on numerous occasions as a racist group. A group that must denounce racism within its ranks, or else be forever tainted as a political movement. The only problem is that real evidence of supposed racism is hardly prevalent. It is, of course, entirely possible that some small percentage of members hold views that are racist in foundation, but this does not manifest itself in the Tea Party ethos any more than ant‐white sentiment manifests itself in the NAACP’s core principles.

What we see evidence of instead is a group attempting to steer political discourse and fight for principles they truly believe will benefit all citizens. This can be said for the NAACP, Republicans, Democrats, and just about any other political organization. Disagreements around core principles and philosophies on governance have become toxic and are hardly good examples of discussions and debates, particularly when such charges effectively end it.

While the Tea Party isn’t my bag–haha–I do have a certain affinity for the small government philosophy they seem to be espousing; with that in mind, it is difficult for me to tell how racism has any part in debates concerning their ideas. From the few meetings I’ve attended, which makes my sample size prohibitively small, I’ve seen very little to no evidence of any racism to believe they are discussing anything other than what they claim.

Why is defending one’s character against this charge such a difficult proposition? Imagine having a lively discussion about the color of the sky. You and your opponent are deadlocked in a debate about the shade of blue the sky typically is on a sunny day. “I feel it has more purple undertones,” you might say. Your opponent claims, “it is more blue‐green.” The discussion continues like this for another ten minutes, when suddenly your opponent says, “well those who see purple in the sky probably dislike children, and are inherently unfriendly to them.”

Well now, the debate has shifted from the color of the sky to whether or not your like children. You’ve gone no further in discussing the sky or the implications of it being one color or another, you’re stuck defending something that has nothing to do with the debate at hand. While this illustration is rather crude, it should give you a good idea of why accusations of character being related to certain political philosophies have no place in most discussions involving matters of government.

Take my man of straw with a grain of salt, but please don’t accuse me of a character flaw because of my beliefs; instead, debate my philosophy on its merits alone.