I consider the Tea Party movement to be, on balance, a positive force in American politics. It is a spontaneous and fully justified response to the reckless policies, the fiscal ones in particular, of the Obama administration. It is comprised of admirable and civic-minded Americans. And as Ramesh Ponnuru and Kate O’Beirne point out in National Review, it is, for the GOP, an opportunity rather than a threat.
But it is a movement, like many movements, that carries with it some risks. This weekend we learned, for example, that some Tea Party members are apparently receptive to appeals from the worst angels of our nature. I have in mind the comments at last week’s Tea Party Convention by former Representative Tom Tancredo, who told a cheering audience that “people who could not even spell the word ‘vote’ or say it in English put a committed socialist ideologue in the White House. His name is Barack Hussein Obama.” The reason we elected “Barack Hussein Obama,” Tancredo went on, is “mostly because I think that we do not have a civics literacy test before people can vote in this country.”
This is ugly (to say nothing of stupid and ignorant) stuff. It is the manifestation of a person filled with rage and obsessions, bitter and brittle, eager to play to people’s worst instincts. Tancredo — who was a Member of the House of Representatives and ran for president in 2008 — should be condemned by all Republicans who believe that such an individual does not represent the GOP, which, after all, is the party of Lincoln and Reagan. It is inconceivable that either man on his worst day would utter anything remotely this offensive. Both Lincoln and Reagan were politicians of conviction, whose words and conduct were most often marked by grace and civility, who came across as irenic rather than enraged. They were, in other words, the polar opposite of Mr. Tancredo.
There are plenty of legitimate ways to criticize President Obama and his agenda. Leave it to Tom Tancredo to cross the line, not by inches but by miles.
No party, and no movement, should provide a home or a platform to a man who practices this kind of repulsive politics.