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Democrats Unfairly Associating Tea Party With Violence, Racism, and Anti-Government Extremism

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“On April 19th, nearly two years after the beginning of the Tea Party movement, government troops searched for a cache of weapons stored by suspected militants. Though tea party protestorsoutnumbered, the militants fired on the troops but were driven back. Later, however, a larger group ambushed government forces inflicting heavy casualties…” Could this be some bizarre near-future scenario about militant Tea Partiers? Read on…

Initially, they were discounted, laughed at and labeled “Astroturf” by Nancy Pelosi – meaning that their “grass roots” were anything but natural. Next they were considered an invention of Fox News and a pawn of the Republican Party. Now, they are called racist, extremist, dangerous and even seditious. Should we be afraid of the Tea Partiers? Is it just a matter of time until some of their members commit a heinous act of internal terrorism?

The 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing came and went on April 19th but not without critics of the Tea Party movement raising such questions. In airing the so-called “McVeigh Tapes” on the evening of the anniversary, Rachel Maddow claimed to be putting “anti-government extremism” in perspective. "It doesn't have to lead to violence, but it can and it has… We ignore this, our own very recent history of antigovernment violence and the dangers of domestic terrorism, at our peril." Was Ms. Maddow making a connection between the Tea Party and “anti-government extremism?” On what grounds?

In a New York Times article, Bill Clinton worried that anti-government rhetoric could incite some to violence: “There can be real consequences when what you say animates people who do things you would never do… You can attack the politics. Criticize their policies. Don’t demonize them, and don’t say things that will encourage violent opposition.” And to what “demonization” was he was referring? Remarks made by Michele Bachmann, a Republican Congresswoman from Minnesota, to a Tea Party rally in Washington. So now we should worry about members of Congress inciting violence? We heard nothing about demonization from Mr. Clinton when moveon.org produced a video in 2003 of Adolph Hitler morphing into George Bush. Rachel Maddow even denied that the video ever existed as recently as August 2009. Yet you can still view it today.

And back to Timothy McVeigh. By his own account, he chose April 19th because it was the second-year anniversary of the FBI raid on the Branch Davidian cult in Waco, Texas that ended in the deaths of 70 cult members. So was he motivated by incendiary speech - or by the actions of the government? And does it even make any sense to put the Tea Partiers on a continuum with Timothy McVeigh?

Time Magazine’s Joe Klein stated in a recent interview with Chris Matthews that certain criticisms of the government, “…especially the ones coming from people like Glenn Beck and to a certain extent Sarah Palin, rub right up close to being seditious.” Does he really mean seditious – like revolutionary? “Let me be clear: dissent isn't sedition. Questioning an Administration's policies isn't sedition. But questioning an Administration's legitimacy in a manner intended to undermine or overthrow it certainly is.” Are we to believe that Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin actually want to overthrow the government?

Then there are the allegations of “abusive, derogatory and even racist behavior directed at House Democrats by Tea Party protesters…” last March. However, Bill Clinton himself said, "I don't think anybody in America should take what a few violent people did as in any way representative of this community or of the people who are here for peaceful protests." Of course, Mr. Clinton made that statement 10 years ago after protestors at the World Trade Organization summit rioted in downtown Seattle. Apparently he worries more about Tea Partiers than self-proclaimed anarchists actually engaging in violence.

So what’s this really all about? I am not sure whether Rachel Maddow, Bill Clinton, Joe Klein and Lance Baxter truly believe that the Tea Partiers are potentially violent. Maybe they do. But it is clear that they don’t like the Tea Partiers’ message and that they are trying to convince the rest of us that it is, in fact, dangerous. And that worries me. How soon do we consider all criticism of the government to be seditious - and therefore have the right to suppress it? Who decides what is acceptable and what is unacceptable political speech? I worry less about the Tea Partiers than I do about folks who seem intolerant, possibly even paranoid, about criticism of the government. We are still a democracy, after all.

Back to the beginning - some of you probably immediately recognized the story at the head of this article. No, it’s not at all about a future uprising of militant Tea Partiers. It’s the story of the first military engagement of the American Revolution on April 19th 1775, nearly two years after the Boston Tea Party. What would Rachel, Bill, Joe and Lance have said about those Tea Partiers if they were around then? One can only wonder.