A.J. DiCintio
The NAACP and the Tea Party
By A.J. DiCintio
July 17, 2010

The mission of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate race-based discrimination.

The quote above repeats the mission statement of the NAACP as it appears on the organization's website. And it's a supremely noble one, speaking about ensuring "equality of rights of all persons" and the elimination of "race-based discrimination."

Problem is, in its attacks on the Tea Party for its "continued tolerance for bigotry and bigoted statements" and its continuing demand that Tea Party leaders "make clear there is no place for racism. . . in their movement," the NAACP is behaving as if its mission is to stoop to any level to support those who agree with its political ideology and slime those with whose ideology it disagrees.

That's a hard judgment against a group that purports to act upon high principles. Therefore, it deserves support, which I'll begin to offer by reminding the public of statements made during the '08 Election season by two of the Democratic Party's most important figures.

In February of '08, Pennsylvania governor and Hillary Clinton supporter Ed Rendell began a meeting with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's editorial board by looking ahead to PA's Democratic primary with this statement:

"You've got conservative [sic] whites here, and I think there are some whites who are probably not ready to vote for an African-American candidate."

But Rendell didn't stop there; for he went on to quantify the amount of racism he believes exists in the Keystone State.

Following is how Tony Norman, a columnist for the Post-Gazette, quoted the governor:

"I believe, looking at the returns in my election, that had Lynn Swann . . . been the identical candidate that he was — well-spoken, charismatic, good-looking — but white instead of black, instead of winning by 22 points, I would have won by 17 or so."

To summarize, a governor who had served as chair of the Democratic National Committee from '99-'01 claimed that at least 5% of Pennsylvania's voters are racists, a good number of them Democrats, as evidenced by his concerns about Barack Obama's chances in the state's closed Democratic primary.

Let's now jump ahead to October of '08 when, with one month to go before the election, Pennsylvania Democratic Representative John Murtha, now deceased but then the powerful Chairman of the House Defense Appropriations Committee, went further than Rendell in assessing the racism he believed exists among the state's electorate.

As reported by the Post-Gazette, Murtha made the following assertion: "There is no question that Western Pennsylvania is a racist area."

Now, regarding the statements made by both men, one of two realities must be true:

(1)Without any facts, they committed the intellectual sin of hasty generalization to carry out a moral sin that, in the pursuit of a perverse and particularly ugly political interest, falsely accused citizens of being racists — in Rendell's case to enhance Hillary Clinton's chances and in Murtha's case to create a backlash that would play to Obama's advantage.

(No sane person would argue the alternative, which is that these rock-solid Democratic partisans intended to harm the Democratic Party or sought to diminish Obama's chances for winning PA and the presidency.)

(2)Both Rendell and Murtha had solid evidence to back up what they said. Moreover, they decided to raise the issue of racism in Pennsylvania not for crass political motives but because they felt compelled to speak truth to the world as objective, knowledgeable citizens or, perhaps, professor-politicians — the political consequences be damned.

However, whatever the reason for what they said, the NAACP (and Democratic leaders, serving or retired) bore a responsibility to speak out. But it (and they) didn't.

If the NAACP believed the first case were true, its leaders should have vigorously condemned Rendell and Murtha for spewing vile, disgusting inventions that particularly insult every black American who has suffered from real racism and every white Pennsylvanian who was unfairly and viciously smeared.

If it believed the second true, those same leaders should have demanded action from the entire Democratic Party hierarchy nationwide, a fact that arises from a question Mr. Norman posed in his Post-Gazette piece:

"Was he [Rendell] suggesting that Pennsylvanians are uniquely racist?"

Again, no sane person would argue that Pennsylvanians are unique in being racist or are significantly more racist than the American average.

Therefore, as a proper response to the second case, the NAACP should have demanded that Democratic leaders across the nation let it be known that there is no room in the Democratic Party for racists and that racists ought to stop referring to themselves as Democrats as well as voting as Democrats.

Anything less, the NAACP should have insisted, would require it "[To] take issue with the [Democratic Party's] continued tolerance for bigotry."

Moreover, the NAACP should have demanded that the denunciations be on-going, just as it is now demanding action from Tea Party leaders even though those leaders have clearly and forcefully denounced persons who seek to use the movement as a vehicle to promote bigotry of any kind.

Therefore, borrowing from what the NAACP has to say to Tea Party leaders today, the organization should have made (and make today) the following demand:

The time has come for [leaders of the Democratic Party] to accept the responsibility that comes with influence and make clear there is no space for racism . . . and other forms of bigotry in their [party].

Time for Democratic leaders to accept responsibility, indeed, for according to statistics published by the AP, there are 42 million registered Democrats in the nation.

If we lowball Ed Rendell's numbers and say just 1% of registered Democrats are racists, we get 420,000 Democratic racists.

That's a powerful number in contrast to the handful of racist behaviors that are alleged of Tea Party members.

Finally, the NAACP ought to be unrelenting in teaching that morality and intellectuality demand charges of racism must never be made loosely.

For example, the Speaker of the House mocked ordinary folks who are legitimate protestors in the great American tradition as "swastika" carrying members of an "Astroturf [movement]." And the Senate Majority Leader unrepentantly denounced those same Americans as "evil-mongers."

But while we may choose from hundreds of adjectives to convey our opinion of Nancy Pelosi's and Harry Reid's attacks, "racist" and "bigot" should not be among them.

To sum up, if the NAACP wants to have any credibility with the great majority of the public, it should labor with a fair, honest, and mighty voice to clean up the house most of its members regard as their political home.

One suggestion for doing so is for its leadership to borrow from Amy Kremer, chairwoman of the Tea Party Express.

Following is what CNN reported when she was asked to address racists who may try to associate themselves with the movement she serves:

"During a May 6 interview on ABC's 'The View,' [Ms. Kremer. . .] pointedly looked into the camera and told any prejudiced followers, 'This is not a racist movement. We don't want you here."

That kind of honesty by the NAACP about the Democratic Party would go a long way to showing the public it doesn't place liberal ideology above the words of its mission statement.

© A.J. DiCintio


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
(See RenewAmerica's publishing standards.)

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A.J. DiCintio

A.J. DiCintio posts regularly at RenewAmerica and YourNews.com. He first exercised his polemical skills arguing with friends on the street corners of the working class neighborhood where he grew up. Retired from teaching, he now applies those skills, somewhat honed and polished by experience, to social/political affairs.


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