Vice President Joe Biden was on ABC’s This Week this morning, and when he was asked if he thought the Tea Party contained racist elements, he delivered and answer that was the perfect counter to the race baiting of Fox News. Biden said that while there are people in the Tea Party who express racist views, he did not believe that the Tea Party is a racist organization.
Here is the video from ABC News:
Jake Tapper asked Biden if he thought there were racist elements in the Tea Party, and Biden answered, “Well, the truth is that at least elements that were involved in some of the Tea Party folks expressed racist views. We saw that on television and it was turned — but I don’t think — I don’t — I wouldn’t characterize the Tea Party as racist. There are individuals who are either members of or on the periphery of some of their things, their — their protests — that have expressed really unfortunate comments. And, again, it was all over TV, all over your network, you know? “
The Vice President continued, “A black congressman walking up the stairs of the Capitol. But I don’t believe, the president doesn’t believe that the Tea Party is — is a racist organization. I don’t believe that. Very conservative. Very different views on government and a whole lot of things. But it is not a racist organization. “
Interestingly, Biden’s answer was similar to one given by Glenn Beck, on Friday while he was accusing the NAACP of racist tactics:
Beck said, “Are there people that hate Blacks, or Jews, or Whites or Asians in the Tea Party? Sure.” Biden’s answer was perfect and politically savvy because it was reasonable. The daily race baiting that occurs on Fox News, talk radio, and other right wing media doesn’t appeal to the majority of the nation. As the Republicans move further to the right, the middle of the US political spectrum is wide open for the Democratic Party. The more often people like Rep. Michele Bachmann take extremist positions such as an absolute denial of racism in the Tea Party, the easier it is for Democrats to seem like an appealing and sensible alternative.
It is also important to understand the psychology of the Right in the United States. Conservatives are only happy when they feel like they are the oppressed minority or when they feel like they are being victimized. For example, despite the fact that they have controlled at least one branch of the federal government for the majority of the last three decades, they still continue to rail against the big government that is oppressing them. Their need for media victimization never fades as well despite the fact that the Right controls talk radio, and the most popular cable news network on television.
If Biden were to have said yes I believe the Tea Party is racist then he would have legitimized the Right’s need for victimization, and made the Tea Party more popular within the GOP. The glue that holds the right together is fear. Fox News makes a huge profit selling fear to these people every day. Fear and negativity are what fuel their activism. (Sarah Palin understands this better than anyone outside of Glenn Beck on the Right).
As Biden’s answer illustrates, the way to defuse the climate of race baiting being perpetuated by Fox News is not to take the extreme opposite point of view, but instead to be honest and reasonable. As an organization, which it really isn’t one big organization, but several fragments under the Tea Party banner, the Tea Party is not racist, but there are certainly racists in the Tea Party. Biden avoided feeding their need for oppression and victimization, and instead delivered and answer that most Americans can get behind. Race baiting is most effective if it seeps into the broader national discussion, but by delivering a reasonable answer, Biden kept it in its right wing box.