Anyone who witnessed the uncomfortable moment on the Melissa Harris Perry show this morning when Republican strategist Ron Christie went after Democratic strategist and former Congressional Black Caucus general counsel Angela Rye on the question of whether there were racial undertones to the tea party’s 2010 midterm sweep (and whether he would “allow” her to finish her thought…) no doubt came away with thoughts and feelings about Christie’s tone. But tone aside, Ron was just wrong on the facts.
Ron asserted that there are simply no racial or racist undertones to the tea party, in 2010 or ever. And he got very heated in making that argument. But the science and the empirical evidence beg to differ.
I know it enrages people on the right to point this out, but the fact is that study after study has shown that tea party supporters show greater signs of harboring racial resentment than the general population. Per the CBS/NYT study in 2010, tea party supporters are:
– More than twice as likely as the general public (25% vs 11%) to believe that “the policies of the Obama administration favor blacks over whites.”
– Half as likely as the general public (16% to 31%) to believe that “white people have a better chance of getting ahead in today’s society.”
– Almost twice as likely as the general public (52% to 28%) to believe that “too much has been made of the problems facing black people” in recent years.
And per the second study cited above, conducted by the University of Washington in 2010:
[E]ven as we account for conservatism and partisanship, support for the Tea Party remains a valid predictor of racial resentment.
And, per ThinkProgress, which summarizes the various studies (and examples of vivid racism at tea party rallies in this excellent post:)
It is untrue, as political commentator Dave Weigel argues, that racism in the Tea Party ismerely reflective of its conservatism. The WISER study found that compared to other conservatives, Tea Party supporters are:
– 25 percent more likely to have racial resentment.
– 27 percent more likely to support racial profiling.
– 28 percent more likely to support indefinite detention without charges.
That’s not to say that ALL tea party supporters are racist, or that there are no racists outside the tea party. But the notion that, as Ron argued on MHP, there is NO evidence of a racial edge to tea party activism, and that the tea party movement must be absolved of all charges of stoking, or encouraging, a politics of racial resentment, he’s just not backed up by the data. I used to debate this point with a die-hard tea party supporter from Florida, who went from insisting there is no racism in the tea party, to this year, emailing me example after example of horribly racist posts from his tea party “friends” on Facebook. Even he is now completely fed up with the movement.
(A more recent study, in October of this year, by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner research, digs even deeper into the various camps within Republicanism, including the Tea Party, and looks specifically at the fear and resentment drivers deeply ingrained in the far right. I highly recommend reading it.)
Some of this is what you might call an opportunistic infection of the tea party movement by racist groups and individuals, once the astroturf movement grew to develop a broad following. But some of it is just as likely to be down to the fact that tea party supporters are overwhelmingly white, older and more affluent than the general population, and so subject to some of the predictable resentments that go along with changing demographic realities, and frustration at losing the White House twice to someone they consider alien to their values, and to whom they are implacably hostile. (And whose elections made stark the reality that they are increasingly an ideological and eventually, an ethnic minority in their own country.)
Ron also denied Angela’s assertion that tea party supporters hurled angry, and in some cases racist, epithets and in one case even spat on a member of the CBC as they entered the Capitol to vote for the Affordable Care Act in March 2010. He even began yelling at Angela that since she wasn’t there, and he was there doing a standup for MSNBC, he knows better than she does, what happened (again, Angela was the CBC’s general counsel, so it stands to reason that she has spoken at length with the members far more often than Ron, who is, after all, a strategist for the opposition…) Again, he’s wrong, as Angela demonstrated on Twitter:
— A • R y e © (@angela_rye) December 15, 2013
Here’s the video of the encounter, which Angela tweeted, and in which you can see Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, then the CBC chairman, stop and wipe his face after passing a screaming tea party protester. Cleaver appears to be angry and taken aback by something that hit his face. You then see staffers go back to the man who confronted Cleaver, and talk to him. And later in the video, you see Cleaver go back with members of the Capitol Police. Watch:
And here’s a freeze frame from that video in which a blogger at Progress Ohio highlighted the spitter:
As for Ron “being there,” as you can see from the video, he is nowhere to be seen, nor is a standup (a live shooting location) for MSNBC or for any other news outlet. With that level of noise, it’s hard to imagine that any of the cable networks would set up live shot locations so close to the crowd. There were cameras positioned at the top of the Capitol steps, shooting the arrival of the members. But no stand ups. So Ron cannot claim to have been close enough to hear any epithets or to see the spitting incident. But the members who were walking through that crowd were clearly close enough to hear, and to feel, what happened. And their accounts are, simply put, more credible than Ron’s.
Here’s the Washington Post account of that day:
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus said that racial epithets were hurled at them Saturday by angry protesters who had gathered at the Capitol to protest health-care legislation, and one congressman said he was spit upon. The most high-profile openly gay congressman, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), was heckled with anti-gay chants.
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) issued a statement late Saturday saying that he was spit upon while walking to the Capitol to cast a vote, leading the Capitol Police to usher him into the building out of concern for his safety. Police detained the individual, who was then released because Cleaver declined to press charges.
“The congressman was walking into the Capitol to vote, when one protester spat on him. The congressman would like to thank the U.S. Capitol Police officer who quickly escorted the other Members and him into the Capitol, and defused the tense situation with professionalism and care,” said Danny Rotert, a spokesman for Cleaver.
Protesters outside the Capitol hurled epithets at Reps. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and Andre Carson (D-Ind.) as they left the building after President Obama delivered an 11th-hour speech on behalf of the health care bill. Carson told reporters that protesters yelled “kill the bill,” then used a racial epithet to describe Carson and Lewis, who is a revered figure on both sides of the aisle.
According to observers, Frank was confronted by about 100 protesters inside the Longworth House Office Building, where Democrats were huddling for another meeting about the legislation. Some targeted Frank with anti-gay epithets and urged him to vote against the bill.
Democratic leaders and their aides said they were outraged by the day’s behavior. “I have heard things today that I have not heard since March 15, 1960, when I was marching to get off the back of the bus,” said House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.), the highest-ranking black official in Congress.
And Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) said in a statement, “On the one hand, I am saddened that America’s debate on health care — which could have been a national conversation of substance and respect — has degenerated to the point of such anger and incivility. But on the other, I know that every step toward a more just America has aroused similar hate in its own time; and I know that John Lewis, a hero of the civil rights movement, has learned to wear the worst slurs as a badge of honor.”
“This is not the first time the congressman has been called the “n” word and certainly not the worst assault he has endured in his years fighting for equal rights for all Americans,” said Rotert, Cleaver’s spokesman. “That being said, he is disappointed that in the 21st century our national discourse has devolved to the point of name-calling and spitting.”
The incidents followed a noontime protest on the west side of the Capitol that drew several thousand people from around the country for a “Code Red” rally against the health-care bill. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) addressed the crowd.
As that rally ended, some protesters moved around to the south side of the Capitol, near the entrance to the House chamber, and across the east front of the complex.
On the first day of spring, most lawmakers walked across the street from their office buildings to the Capitol, rather than using the underground tunnels. That brought them into contact with protesters forming a gauntlet on each side of the walkway leading into the House. At one point, when Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) wanted to walk across the street to an office building, he was ushered into a car by his security detail and driven a couple hundred feet through the screaming crowd.
Saturday evening, more than a handful of House Republicans held an impromptu rally on the Capitol steps. Using a megaphone, the lawmakers urged on the crowd. Shortly after 6 p.m., Rep. Ted Poe (R-Tex.) dared House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to come out onto the House steps and address the more than 1,000 people who were gathered at the foot of the Capitol, prompting a loud and angry chant of “Nancy, Nancy, Nancy.” …
The bottom line: Ron was not only incredibly rude to Angela (and he’s generally a nice guy, so I say that as someone who gets along well with him off the air) he was also simply wrong on the facts.