Tea Party and the Right

"Fertile Ground": White Nationalists Are Organizing Within the Tea Party

There is plenty of evidence that overt racists have entered Tea Party affiliated organizations.

Addressing a rally in April 2011, white nationalist lawyer William Johnson lamented the media scrutiny he drew with his recent failed campaign for a judgeship in California.

"Ron Paul endorsed me for Superior Court judge, and I was on my way," Johnson said. "No sooner than I'd put my hat in the ring than ... it came out that Johnson is a white nationalist, that Johnson wants to create a separate white ethno-state, that Johnson supports the 14 words of [white power domestic terrorist] David Lane, that 'We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children,' and the media went wild with all of that, and Ron Paul withdrew his endorsement of me...because he did not believe in a separate white ethno-state and he didn't know that I did." 

A white ethno-state? The 14 words?

Johnson sounded like he was at a neo-Nazi conference,  as in 1986 when he addressed the Aryan Nations World Congress. But the banner hanging over the stage was not a Swastika flag. It read: "Tax Day Tea Party."

The April 16 rally in San Juan Capistrano, California, corresponded with more than 100 Tea Party rallies scheduled across the country for that Saturday. It was promoted on the website of Tea Party.org, also known as 1776 Tea Party, one of six well-established Tea Party umbrella groups. Its true organizers, however, were from American Third Position, or A3P, a white nationalist political party founded by racist skinheads. A3P did not respond to repeated inquiries for this article. Neither did 1776 Tea Party.

Since April 2010, A3P members have organized, co-sponsored or freely distributed literature at no fewer than 10 Tea Party rallies in six states, including Augusta, Georgia; Harrison, Arkansas; Baton Rogue, Louisiana and throughout California, where A3P was founded in May 2009 by Freedom 14, a racist skinhead crew seeking to establish a more respectable-seeming political front group.

Although it would be unfair to characterize the Tea Party movement on the whole as white nationalist, it's clear that large gatherings of angry, conservative, predominately white Americans are viewed with relish by groups like A3P.

"The Tea Parties are fertile ground for our activists," said A3P Pennsylvania Chairman Steve Smith. "Tea Party supporters and the A3P share much common ground with regard to our political agendas."

The A3P official position on race in America is clear: "If current demographic trends persist, European-Americans will become a minority in America in only a few decades time. The American Third Position will not allow this to happen."

Johnson, the national chairman of A3P, has previously called for deporting all non-whites, regardless of citizenship.This includes anyone with any "ascertainable trace of Negro blood" or more than one-eighth "non-European or non-white blood."  A3P directors include white nationalist radio host James Edwards and California State University, Long Beach, professor of psychology Kevin MacDonald, who according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a leading authority on hate groups, is "the neo-Nazi movement's favorite academic" because he theorizes that Jews are "genetically driven to destroy Western society."

At least two of the Tea Party rallies where A3P has distributed white nationalist literature were organized by local chapters of Tea Party Patriots, the largest Tea Party group in the country.

Tea Party Patriots co-founder and national chairman Mark Meckler told Media Matters that it's "numerically impossible" for his group to have representatives monitoring every rally sponsored by Tea Party Patriots.

"As a national umbrella organization with over 3,500 chapters, we obviously don't have folks from the national organization at every rally to monitor literature distribution," said Meckler.

Meckler said he was unaware of A3P or its presence at Tea Party rallies until contacted by Media Matters. "We would absolutely ban any white nationalist group from our organization if we found them to be trying to get involved," he said. "We have a 100 percent zero tolerance policy towards this type of group. This type of activity has no place in the legitimate Tea Party movement. They [A3P] are hiding behind a Tea Party banner. Thanks for bringing this to our attention. We'll be on the lookout."

Tea Party leaders have been on warning about racism in their ranks since last July, when the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People adopted a resolution calling on Tea Party leaders to  condemn "racist elements" within the Tea Party movement and reject bigotry in their ranks.

"We take no issue with the Tea Party movement. We believe in freedom of assembly and people raising their voices in a democracy," NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous said in a written statement at the time. "What we take issue with is the Tea Party's continued tolerance for bigotry and bigoted statements."

"The time has come for them to accept the responsibility that comes with influence and make clear there is no place for racism & anti-Semitism, homophobia and other forms of bigotry in their movement."

Right-wing reaction was typical. On Fox News, conservative political commentator Andrea Tantaros called the resolution a "ploy to get blacks angry, to get them out to vote. It's class warfare, it's race warfare."

Sarah Palin posted to her Facebook page: "I am saddened by the NAACP's claim 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."

Ten days before the NAACP passed the anti-bigotry resolution, an A3P "super activist" team openly distributed A3P literature at a Tea Party rally in Morristown, New Jersey that drew roughly 600 attendees. "Everyone accepted our literature and we received enthusiastic responses from most takers," read a bulletin posted to the A3P website. "Needless to say, [the Tea Party rally was] almost exclusively comprised of our people varying only by age, socio-economic status and temperament. ... It is crucial that we network at...implicitly white activities such as Tea Parties and Euro festivals to bring the message of hope to our people."

Since the NAACP resolution was passed, A3P teams have continued to distribute literature at Tea Party rallies, most recently documented on April 16.  On that date, at the same time the A3P-organized Tea Party rally in San Juan Capistrano, California, was preparing to get underway, A3P members in New Jersey handed out white nationalist pamphlets at the Tax Day Tea Party rally, once again in Morristown. [A3P has active chapters in 14 states, but is particularly strong in New Jersey, where in the summer of 2010 it absorbed the League of American Patriots, a white power group known for distributing racist pamphlets and requiring its members to be heterosexuals of "complete European American ancestry," according to the SPLC.]

The glossy color pamphlets A3P distributes at Tea Party rallies are subtle to a degree. They do not depict hate group symbols or quote the 14 words, and their language is careful. One pamphlet, "American Jobs For American Workers," pledges to "Fight Crime and Restore Confidence."

"The PC madness that binds the hands of law enforcement will be scrapped, and the police will be allowed to do their job," it reads. The same pamphlet explains that A3P will "expel illegal aliens" to protect "our people."

"It isn't right and it isn't fair that, while millions of Americans face unemployment or the prospect of unemployment, millions of foreign peoples are brought into our land against our will," it reads. "It amplifies the problem, and our people deserve better." Variations on this rhetorical sleight-of-hand using economic anxiety to promote white nationalist ideology are the main thrust of A3P's participation in Tea Party branded rallies, whether in distributed literature or polemics from the stage.

At the April 16 rally in San Juan Capistrano, Johnson was preceded at the podium by prominent Holocaust denier Mark Weber, director of the Institute for Historical Review. "Ladies and gentlemen, we're here because we're angry, we're upset and we're outraged at what's happened to our country," Weber said. "Our country has been transformed demographically and culturally during the past 50 years in a way that most of us never approved, never subscribed to.... As bad as the economic crisis is and has been for the past two years, and as bad as the problems are in Washington and in Sacramento about the budget, those pale in significance to the greater, deeper problems culturally and demographically in our society."

Later in his speech, Weber celebrated the Tea Party movement. "We're here along with people who are meeting with rallies all over California and all over the country," he said.

He swiftly returned to attacking demographic change.

Political leaders "lie and deceive our people," Weber said. "Most of all they tell us this foolish lie, over and over, that 'diversity is our strength.' ... It's an effort to tell us all that we should not only accept but embrace our own dispossession as a people and as a country."

The A3P literature booth at the rally was located next to a booth maintained by the Council of Conservative Citizens. CCC opposes all efforts to "to mix the races of mankind" and has referred to African-Americans as a "retrograde species of humanity."

Musical entertainment came in the form of right-wing country singer Traven Tucker, best known for his blood-and-soil anthem "Ordinary Man." Its lyrics are to the point:

I got a rebel flag and a pickup truck/12-gauge shotgun I keep for luck/And I don't like what I see.

I'm a peaceful man, but you cross the line/Tell you now I don't mind you dyin'/For my freedom to be free

Take a good look into these eyes/It wouldn't be prudent or wise/To spend another minute on my land.

[...]

Well, I got an ideal and a little hope/Get a really tall tree and a short piece of rope/I'd say that'd do just fine/So I better see you get up on your feet/And I better see you run to hit that street/Get off before I change my mind.

You don't think I can change the world/Well I don't think you understand/Don't you ever underestimate me-- I'm no average, I'm extraordinary man.

David Holthouse is a Media Matters' investigative journalist focusing on violent extremism. He previously worked for the Southern Poverty Law Center where he engaged in groundbreaking reporting on extremist groups. His work has appeared in Rolling Stone, The Nation, American Prospect and other publications.