Will the Tea Parties Descend into Dangerous Religious Extremism?
This post first appeared on No More Mister Nice Blog. A Politico story today makes me think that someday in the not-too-distant future we'll look back on this moment and find it almost quaint that we thought the tea party movement was the be-all and end-all of GOP-affiliated right-wing extremism. The story suggests that there are some areas of extremism where many teabaggers don't want to go -- but there are plenty of other people willing to do what the 'baggers won't: ... [The] delicate balance between [the tea party movement's] narrow fiscal focus and a more generic form of conservatism is now being tested in congress by the white-hot fight over plans to build an Islamic cultural center and mosque in Lower Manhattan. ... most tea party groups -- including those in New York -- have officially sat on the sidelines... ... in interviews, a number of leading activists told POLITICO there hasn't been much discussion on tea party listervs and conference calls about the mosque. Most said flatly they don't consider the mosque a tea party issue, though several said they recognized the right of the mosque planners to build it, yet personally disagreed with New York City's decision to permit it. ... there is a movement-wide understanding that if activists want to take on such issues, they should try not to drag the tea party brand into it, according to Andrew Ian Dodge, who serves as the Maine state coordinator for the influential Tea Party Patriots umbrella group. "We don't tell people what they should say and shouldn’t say, but if it's not a tea party issue we prefer -- I think would be a polite way to put it -- that they don't do it under a tea party banner," said Dodge.... So the teabaggers are being the cautious wingnuts in this fight. They aren't willing to join in this crusade, or at least they aren't willing to put their movement's stamp on it. Ah, but don't worry -- a motley crew of demagogues and haters is more than willing to go even further than the suddenly restrained-seeming tea people: In June, the prominent political action committee Tea Party Express quietly began to distance itself from flame-throwing, anti-mosque radio host Mark Williams, replacing him as chairman partly because of his high profile opposition to the mosque. (He left the group entirely last month after his racially incendiary attack on the NAACP, which had recently passed a resolution expressing concern over racist elements in the tea party.) Williams said opposing the mosque "is one of the projects that I told the Tea Party Express that I wanted to focus on and it's not the focus of the Tea Party Express." ... The Louisiana-based Conservative Party USA, which has a plank in its platform opposing the planned mosque, recently elected Williams its president, he said, asserting it was attracting tea partiers looking for an outlet for anti-mosque activism. "I'm not telling tea partiers who aren't already outraged over this to leave the tea party over this, but those who are inclined to do so, there are outlets out there to oppose to this horrid temple to savagery." In fact, Liberty Central, a tea party-related group founded by Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, is circulating a petition opposing the mosque and Ginni Thomas is set to speak at an anti-mosque rally on Sept. 11.... In the future, will we look back on the tea party movement and think that it was benign compared with what came afterward? Is the nadir yet to come, fueled by truly dangerous groups that stand for a lot of the craziness the teabaggers stand for, but go even further -- into open warfare with Islam, or into the worst religious right extremes? Of course, we saw an example of a three-fer recently, when Bryan Fischer of the tea-affiliated religious-right group the American Family Association declared that no permits for mosque-building should be granted anywhere in America, period. Ironically, the firebreak on all this could be the Murdoch media empire -- as I noted last week, Fox et al. may be giving a lot of play to the Cordoba House fight, but the Murdochites don't seem interested in going so far as to join the no-mosques-anywhere cause. Maybe Rupert and Roger will deprive the Even Crazier crowd of vital Fox News oxygen. On the other hand, by that time, especially if the economic crisis continues, the Even Craziers may be self-sustaining.