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Why Won't Sarah Palin and Tea Party Leaders Condemn Racism in Their Midst?

Instead of saying racism is unacceptable in their movement, Palin and Tea Party leaders pretend the NAACP called them all racists. Call it the politics of resentment.

This week Tea Party leaders such as Sarah Palin and FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe had the opportunity to prove their commitment to the color-blind society they say they believe in; instead they took the low road, encouraging Tea Party foot soldiers to believe that the NAACP this week condemned them, wholesale, as racist. And, of course, that's not what happened in Kansas City, when the NAACP drafted a resolution addressing racism in the Tea Party movement.

What the NAACP draft resolution pointed out are the individual incidents of racism observed at some Tea Party gatherings, and it asked movement leaders to "repudiate the racist element and activities within the tea party,“ according to Hilary Shelton, director of the NAACP’s Washington bureau. "With increased influence comes increased responsibility," writes NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous on CNN's Web site. "It is long past time for Dick Armey and the Tea Party leadership to take a stance."

It would have been a simple gesture -- a demonstration of true patriotism -- one that in the eyes of most Americans would render the Tea Party movement much more palatable as an alternative to establishment GOP. Just take the NAACP up on its challenge, and condemn any and all expressions of racism that have turned up at movement gatherings, or out of the mouths of self-proclaimed movement leaders. But Tea Party leaders such as Palin and Kibbe apparently decided that greater fortune lay in ginning up the base they already have.

That racism has been in evidence at Tea Party gatherings is irrefutable. There are photographs of signs, and quotations from such Tea Party figures as Mark Williams, who once called Barack Obama "an Indonesian Muslim turned welfare thug." (Williams just stepped down as spokesperson for the Tea Party Express in order to lead the charge against the building of a mosque in lower Manhattan because it is too close, in his estimation, to the site of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, on the World Trade Center. But he says he will continue to work with Tea Party Express.) Williams today described the NAACP as a racist organization that "make[s] more money off of race than any slave-trader." According to several blogs, including the Hillbilly Report, he also ran a satirical letter to Abraham Lincoln on his Web site (now apparently expunged), written in the voice of a "colored" person named "Precious Benjamin Jealous":

Perhaps the most racist point of all in the tea parties is their demand that government “stop raising our taxes.” That is outrageous! How will we coloreds ever get a wide screen TV in every room if non-coloreds get to keep what they earn? Totally racist! The tea party expects coloreds to be productive members of society?

Mr. Lincoln, you were the greatest racist ever. We had a great gig. Three squares, room and board, all our decisions made by the massa in the house. Please repeal the 13th and 14th Amendments and let us get back to where we belong.

No racism there.

The road taken by Sarah Palin in a Facebook communique was only slightly higher, wherein she accused the NAACP of "claim[ing] that patriotic Americans who stand up for the United States of America’s Constitutional rights are somehow 'racists.' The charge that Tea Party Americans judge people by the color of their skin is false, appalling, and is a regressive and diversionary tactic to change the subject at hand."

Matt Kibbe, president of FreedomWorks, the AstroTurfing organization chaired by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, was a bit more clever in his response. In a press release simultaneously condemned racism while declaring the NAACP resolution to be an undeserved attack: