Still, the Tea Party's critics love to characterize the entire movement by the actions of a few. Ironically, when discussing the subject of welfare, liberals are always quick to defend welfare programs despite the many recipients who take advantage of the system. When discussing Islam, respectable journalists are always careful to note that terrorists and radicals do not define that religion. But the Tea Party is regularly held to an entirely different standard, where if a few people show up—out of a crowd of thousands—with signs comparing the president to a fascist or communist dictator it becomes enough to disparage and dismiss the entire movement.
The double standard doesn't stop there. My family and I attended the first inaugural parade for George W. Bush and some of the signs were so offensive and vulgar that I had to shield the eyes of my seven-year-old son. Throughout his presidency, Bush was routinely depicted as Hitler, Stalin, Satan, you name it. Protesters bumped up against us hurling the F bomb in front of our children. It comes with the job. Does this necessarily mean that every American who might be sympathetic to anti-war protesters or who might have been critical of Bush's foreign policy is some sort of crazy person? I certainly don't believe that and, given the bipartisan nature of the Tea Party, I don't think many of its members today would be so quick to cast the same aspersion.
Most of the Tea Party's liberal critics are not so generous, attributing sinister motives to grassroots conservatives that are virtually non-existent. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote of a town hall protest in 2009, in which Tea Party folks were letting their voices be heard: "Instead of a multicultural tableau of beaming young idealists on screen, we see ugly scenes of mostly older and white malcontents." Is Dowd serious? Who's bringing up race here and what does it have to do with anything? Her fellow Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote of the same protesters that "they're probably reacting less to what Mr. Obama is doing, or even to what they've heard about what he's doing, than to who he is," adding that Tea Party anger re?ects "cultural and racial anxiety." Obviously, Krugman has never attended any of the events on which he seems to consider himself an expert, and his and Dowd's opinions of the Tea Party reveal more about their own left-wing prejudices than that of the Tea Party movement.
Last summer the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) sponsored a resolution demand¬ing that the Tea Party repudiate its "racist elements." The resolution defied all logic. Should, or would, the NAACP repudiate the "racist elements" in their midst, given the extreme rhetoric of figures like Rev. Jeremiah Wright or the voter intimidation of groups like the New Black Panther Party? Of course not. The NAACP has no control over these individuals or groups. The decentralized nature of the Tea Party means no one really controls the movement, much less possesses the ability to rein in or prevent the occasional, random extremist. An organization like the NAACP, which is structured, would be more capable of denouncing undesirable elements in its ranks than the Tea Party, given its lack of structure—though I won't be holding my breath for the organization to be doing any such denouncing anytime soon.