The Tea Party and the KKK: What They Have in Common

It was wrong of a Florida Democrat to compare the Tea Party to the Ku Klux Klan in an email blast, writes the Daily Beast's Jamelle Bouie. But the two groups are not entirely unrelated, he argues.

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Rep. Alan Grayson (Nicholas Kamm/Getty Images)

The Daily Beast's Jamelle Bouie explores what the Tea Party and the Ku Klux Klan may actually have in common. While Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) was wrong to compare the Tea Party to the white supremacist organization in an email blast, Bouie explains that the two groups are not entirely unrelated.

Florida Democrat Alan Grayson is known for throwing bombs at his Republican colleagues, but he may have gone too far with his latest.

In a fundraising email to supporters, Grayson's campaign compared the Tea Party movement to the Ku Klux Klan—while depicting a burning cross. Republicans are enraged ("There's no excuse for the hateful words and imagery used by Congressman Grayson," said Matt Gorman, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee) but Grayson is unapologetic, telling Fox News that "[T]here 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."

There's no question that Grayson is in the wrong: The Tea Party is objectionable, but it's a far cry from the white supremacist vigilantism of the Klan and its offshoots. At the same time, it would be needless political correctness to dismiss the Tea Party as completely unrelated to the Klan, or at least, the reactionary currents that gave it life. 

For starters, it's no accident that the Tea Party emerged during a period of mass immigration and rapid cultural change. Like the Know-Nothing Party of the 1850s—which directed its energies against Catholic immigrants from Ireland—or the "modern" Klan of the 1920s—which, in addition to blacks, targeted Italians, Jews, and Eastern Europeans—the Tea Party has its roots in demographic anxiety; the profound fear that the country is turning into something foreign and un-American. Earlier this month, pollster Stan Greenberg released results from several focus groups he held with Tea Party and other Republican voters, in which they expressed their fears and concerns.

Read Jamelle Bouie's entire piece at the Daily Beast.

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