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KUHNER: Unfairly tarring the Tea Party

- - Thursday, October 24, 2013

Liberals think they have discovered the 21st-century version of the Ku Klux Klan. According to many left-wing Democrats, the Tea Party is now the home for white supremacists and rabid racists. In the wake of the partial government shutdown, the liberal ruling class is determined to permanently smear — and destroy — their conservative critics. Their weapon: The ugly politics of race.

Rep. Alan Grayson, Florida Democrat, recently sent an email to supporters with the image of a burning cross on the letter "T." The letter stood for Tea Party. Along with the image was an interview that Mr. Grayson conducted with MSNBC host, the Rev. Al Sharpton, in which the Florida congressman said, "At this point, the Tea Party is no more popular than the Klan." Mr. Grayson's vile email sparked a public firestorm — even among many of his constituents.

Yet he refused to apologize. Rather, he made a direct connection between peaceful citizens who champion the Constitution and racist thugs responsible for lynching countless blacks. "One could go on and on, because there is overwhelming evidence that the Tea Party is the home of bigotry and discrimination in America today, just as the KKK was for an earlier generation," Mr. Grayson said.

This Tea Party-equals-KKK narrative is becoming a chorus on the left. MSNBC host Chris Matthews recently asked if members of the Tea Party "still count blacks as three-fifths of the vote?" Actor Chris Noth opined that the government shutdown was a result of the "highest level of racism" by House Republicans. In fact, Mr. Noth openly called for violence. He said, "Every Tea Party member should be horsewhipped." Another MSNBC host, Chris Hayes, used a graphic on his show depicting Republican Sens. Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio as kings in a deck of cards with the obvious implication: KKK. For radical progressives, small-government Republicans are not just political opponents, but mortal enemies who must be dehumanized into racist vermin.

The left's latest tactic is not simply demagogic and vulgar. It has a deeper problem: The narrative has no connection — none — to reality. It is completely, almost laughably false. The Tea Party grew to national prominence due to its opposition to the president's economic stimulus and Obamacare. In particular, it is a movement of concerned citizens that opposes nationalized health care and runaway government spending. Their two goals are to repeal Obamacare and to confront America's crushing debt. That's it. They think the size and scope of the federal government has grown too large. It must be scaled back. Otherwise, America will go broke.

The issue is not even ideological — it's basic arithmetic. A nation that runs annual deficits of roughly $1 trillion, has a $17 trillion public debt and more than $90 trillion in unfunded government liabilities is destined to collapse financially. The question is not if, but when. We are sitting on a ticking debt bomb. Instead of confronting this harsh reality, liberals prefer to engage in the politics of personal destruction. It's classic bait and switch: Demonize critics in order to obfuscate colossal failures.

For Democrats, however, there is an even deeper problem. Contrary to myth, it was the Democrats who were the party of the KKK, slavery and Jim Crow. Until the late 1960s, the Deep South was a bastion of Democratic rule. It was the Democrats, not the Republicans, who supported the Confederacy and secession. In fact, the GOP was formed to prevent the expansion of slavery into the territories. It was Republican President Abraham Lincoln who fought to preserve the union. It was Republicans who freed the slaves. Moreover, racist Democrat-controlled state governments imposed segregation in the Old South. Democrats were the ones who formed and joined the KKK. They were the grand wizards who ordered the lynchings and beatings of blacks. A greater percentage of Republicans than Democrats in Congress voted for the civil rights legislation of the 1960s. In short, liberals are burdened by the ugly legacy of race and white supremacy.

It is bizarre, bordering on the perverse, that a movement that believes in limited government, individual rights, equality under the law and a colorblind society is called racist by the very party and ideologues responsible for the most heinous sins in American history. Liberals are resorting to slander and crass emotionalism because deep down, they know one simple truth: The Tea Party is right.

This is a sign of desperation. Progressives are unable to use logic or evidence to defend President Obama. Hence, the left can only do one thing: rage against his critics. Mr. Grayson and his ilk embody the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of modern liberalism.

Like America, it is running on empty. Tea Party Republicans should take comfort. Being called a racist by liberals is a badge of honor. It means our ideas are winning.

Jeffrey T. Kuhner is a radio host on WRKO AM-680 in Boston.