COMMENTARY | During the movie “Blazing Saddles,” Sheriff Bart (played by Cleavon Little) tries to infiltrate a gang of villains dressed as a Klansman. He’s found out when someone sees his hand, which is a bit of trouble for the Sheriff, given that he’s African-American.
Democrat Rep. Alan Grayson has tried to make a connection between the Ku Klux Klan and the Tea Party in an email mailing to fans where a burning cross makes up the “T” in Tea Party, while two people in white hooded robes look on. But is it a valid analogy, or as silly as the scene in Blazing Saddles was meant to be?
Now Rep. Grayson originally contended that the Tea Party was “No more popular than the Klan.” On that score, he might be right, given how the Tea Party is being blamed for the unpopular government shutdown, and many of its members seem unrepentant about the whole episode, which seems to have given Democrats the initiative in an election that otherwise appeared to be going the way of the Republicans. Even Georgia’s U.S. Senate seat looks winnable.
Rep. Grayson continued to back up his words, contending that “Tea Party members have circulated countless altered pictures depicting President Obama and the First Lady as monkeys. Tea Party members also called my fellow Member of Congress, civil rights hero John Lewis, a ‘n***ger,’ and Rep. Barney Frank a ‘faggot,'” Grayson said in a statement reported by a Yahoo News article. “One could go on and on,” Grayson went on to say, “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. If the shoe fits, wear it.”
On that score, I have no response. I have known conservatives who have sent me or forwarded me mail that either shows such images, includes those descriptions or invites those comparisons, in addition to others contending Obama is Hitler, Muslim, a Communist, a murderer, whatever.
I also know of some emails, articles, and images used to denigrate Republican leaders and candidates, the Tea Party, conservatives, etc. One is the aforementioned Tea Party-KKK link, circulated by Rep. Grayson. Let’s face it, we’re almost back to the hate filled elections of Federalists like Adams and Hamilton vs. Democrat-Republicans like Jefferson and Burr.
But speaking of that Tea Party-Klan analogy, who is that TEA Party Senator who engaged in the marathon filibuster that produced the government shutdown? It’s Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a Hispanic. And Marco Rubio (another Hispanic) voted against the compromise to end the shutdown.
Who led the Tea Party Congressional Caucus and praised House Speaker John Boehner for shutting down the government as long as he could? It’s Michelle Bachmann, a woman.
Who was the Senator from South Carolina who stood loyally by Cruz’s side, one of only 18 who voted against the measure to reopen the government? It’s Sen. Tim Scott, an African-American.
Now that would be a scene worthy of “Blazing Saddles.”
John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga.