The Trail: A Daily Diary of Campaign 2008


The Debate Rages On...

9/12: Race, the Tea Party Protesters and a Battle of Interpretations

By Garance Franke-Ruta
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs today brushed aside suggestions that Saturday's protests against President Obama were in any way racially motivated.

"I don't think the president believes that people are upset because of the color of his skin," Gibbs said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union." "I think people are upset because on Monday we celebrate the anniversary of the Lehman Brothers collapse that caused a financial catastrophe unlike anything we've ever seen."

Online and in print media, though, the question that MSNBC's First Read on Friday dubbed "the elephant in the room" has increasingly been mentioned explicitly, as in this Sunday column by Maureen Dowd -- "Some people just can't believe a black man is president and will never accept it," she wrote -- and Colbert King's Satuday column. "There's something loose in the land, an ugliness and hatred directed toward Barack Obama, the nation's first African American president, that takes the breath away. The thread of resentment is woven through conservative commentary, right-wing radio and cable TV shows, all the way to Capitol Hill," he argued.

"At what point do what a bunch of folks in D.C. believe privately become more public -- that there is a dramatic divide between how people in the South view Obama versus the rest of the country?" the MSNBC team had asked, concluding: "Whether it's fair or not, there is a perception growing that race is driving some elements of the opposition to Obama."

From this question to size of the crowd to whether pictures of it were real, much about the 9-12 March on Washington is being contested and subjected to different interpretations in its aftermath.

On the left, Progressive Change Campaign Committee co-founder StephanieTaylor collected images of the more extreme signs she saw at the DC march in real time on her TwitPic page.

The NineTwelvePhotoStream by a liberal photographer did the same on Flickr, adding another set, "Meet Your Conservative Movement," here. (They can both be viewed as part of a 200-photo set here.)

And of course, what became the iconic sign of the protest, produced by the American Life League, was everywhere.

Matthew Yglesias of the Center for American Progress focused on two shots that led him to argue that "the tea parties, like a lot of big time conservative events, are a very racism friendly environment."

On the right, this interpretation was anticipated during the protests and vigorously contested after them. "It doesn't matter what this sign says/You'll call it racism anyway!" read one poster held aloft and captured online by brinux.

Conservative site Newsbusters highlighted the presentations of two African Americans, motivational speaker Mason Weaver and singer Lloyd Marcus, at the rally.

Many other conservatives simply took photos without a particular message -- such as these by the Washington Times's Amanda Carpenter, or these from Tabitah Hale of blog Pink Elephant Pundit -- that showed a crowd more in line with the one seen in images and stories from major news organizations, which focused on the anti-government message of the rallies. also has an "iPhone Photo Essay" from the rally here, which showed the wide range of issues and approaches represented in the march.

Posted at 5:12 PM ET on Sep 13, 2009  | Category:  The Debate Rages On...
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Marchers came to DC from all across the country, from Sun City to Leisure World.


Posted by: MikeLicht | September 17, 2009 9:33 AM


Using your logic, you're giving credence to the idea that President Obama should be questioned about 'radicalism' for 'brushing shoulders' with people like Bill Ayers. Apparently, I'm naive for not buying into that sort of thought but you, the enlightened one, are not.

Posted by: cherylg1 | September 15, 2009 11:20 PM

I think it's kind of ironic/coincidental that these protests are about the government spending too much, getting too big, blah blah whatever. Where were these folks when G.W.B. was passing the Patriot Act? Or when G.W.B.'s spending was, well let's just say more than 'conservative'? If you protesters don't want people to think you are racist, then you should have been protesting for quite a bit longer than you have thus far. This is nothing more than a few talking pinheads spreading fear among the common people. When the public is scared, they tend to lean Republican. Unfortunately for them,they will soon find themselves on the wrong side of history.
sosueme1: Here's one for you: MORON, that is what you are. If you have to tell people how good or smart you are, you probably aren't.

Posted by: minusthymus | September 15, 2009 8:15 PM

cherylg1, you may not be racist at all, or you may be badly racist and find some races more acceptable than others. I have no way of knowing your motivations or feelings. But I know that the logic behind the protests was so diverse and incoherent that it amounted to little more than a coalition of ill-informed fearfulness. Your personal motive may not have been racism, but that hardly makes your participation admirable.

Have you ever heard the term, "fellow traveler?" Whatever your own motivations, keep in mind that people are often judged, sometimes unfairly, by the company they keep.

If you go to a rally organized by a man who claims the mixed race president of the U.S. is racist, where people are waving confederate flags, and rub shoulders with people who think the president is a Kenyan Muslim out to destroy the U.S., well, your upset at implications of racism is deeply and conveniently naive.

Posted by: nodebris | September 15, 2009 12:26 AM

I showed up with my family to the protest on behalf of myself and particularly my young children. One of the most infuriating and hurtful things to me is being called a racist. One of my children is a different race than myself. I adopted her from another country. I want her to have all the opportunities this country has to offer but I fear some of the opportunities are at risk. I didn't even show up with a sign, but did purchase a few American flags to carry as we marched along Pennsylvania Avenue.

My question to the people suggesting me and my family are racists is how many children do you have in your househould that are of a different race? I guess I should call you a racist if your answer is none.

Posted by: cherylg1 | September 14, 2009 11:47 PM

"You think that [he] didn't have a clue what he was stepping into?"

Certainly, he did.

Posted by: nodebris | September 14, 2009 6:02 PM

And yet, they only protest the one with the black president. That may not be racism, but it sure is an interesting coincidence. " -- nodebris


Relax, please, and take a breath. Sometimes, it's just a matter of timing. Obama wanted the job, and got it. You think that a brilliant politician like him, and all his genius czars-to-be counselors in the "Office of the President-Elect," didn't have a clue what he was stepping into?

Posted by: PoliticalDiva1 | September 14, 2009 3:23 PM

I am sad and worried.

I spent 8 years acknowledging G.W. Bush as President of the United States. I wasn't fond of him. Yet everytime he made a decision I hoped he was making the right one. After several years and some evidence he wasn't really up to the job (Katrina, wrong about WMD, allowing profiteering during wartime, deficit spending on war/cutting taxes during a war, warrantless wiretapping...), I became angry. I STILL hoped with all my heart he was trying to do the right thing.

President Obama has been in office for less than eight months, trying to clean up a huge economic mess and dealing with two wars, yet he has been subjected to UGLY rhetoric, called derisive names, accused of being communist, socialist, facist and Nazi, even by members of mainstream media.

Say what you want, but the worst thing I heard said about Bush in his first couple of years was that he took too many vacations. Most dared not to speak against him or his administration at all after 9-11 for fear of looking un-American. Some big newspapers even fired journalists for reporting negatively about the war. (They were vindicated by the facts, but their jobs were gone anyway.)

Like I said, I'm sad and worried. Facts and fairness seem to have left the public square.

Posted by: detepe | September 14, 2009 1:19 PM

"most people recognize that there has been a slow erosion of the economy over many Administrations."

And yet, they only protest the one with the black president. That may not be racism, but it sure is an interesting coincidence.

Posted by: nodebris | September 14, 2009 1:12 PM

The use of the race card by liberals is becoming so cliche to the point of being irrelevant. News stories about the event and comments after them are filled with dismissal, hatred, mockery and insults toward the people who came to DC this past weekend from all parts of the country. For every one person in attendance, there were 20 or 30 back home who wanted to be here.

I was at the Taxpayer March. Families, seniors, veterans, and just average citizens--both wage-payers and wage-earners--who have never been involved in a protest or written a letter to Congress are finally mad as hell at the increasing government intrusion in their daily lives. They were good-natured and courteous, but they are tired of hearing "Do as I say, not as I do" from politicians from both parties. They know that Social Security, Medicare, highways, etc. are government programs, and they know that this is what they pay taxes for. But as legislation and government policy is crafted to mandate the light bulbs, toilets and room temperatures they can have in their homes, the food they can eat, the cars they can drive, and the health insurance they must carry, people are figuring out that it's time to stand up and tell the government to slow down and LISTEN.

It wasn't an "anti-Obama," "Glen Beck-driven" or "conservative/Republican" protest--most people recognize that there has been a slow erosion of the economy over many Administrations.

Obama/Axelrod/Gibbs and Boehner/Pelosi/Reid/Congress should know that they ignore or dismiss the views of these American citizens at their own peril.

Posted by: PoliticalDiva1 | September 14, 2009 12:41 PM

The left is merely inserting the racist argument to detract from the right's frightening success and new found grassroots power. Think of it as the left's aattempt at planting a whoopee cushion to change the seriousness of the conversation.

Sorry leftists, you've awakened a sleeping giant that will no longer go quietly into the night. They know who you are, the evil you seek to do to their freedom, and the dirty Alinskyite tactics that you use to destory freedom.

The enemy -the left - has finally been engaged in battle! No more free abuse without pushback. You can count the protesters with any modern math games you chose -truth is your enemy and it will set us free.

Posted by: DonL1 | September 14, 2009 10:45 AM

Days after the release of hidden-camera videos led to the firing of four ACORN workers in Baltimore and Washington who assisted an independent filmmaker posing as a pimp to apply for an illegal housing loan for a brothel, a third video has surfaced showing ACORN workers offering the same kind of assistance at the organization's office in Brooklyn, N.Y.

As in their previous undercover stings, filmmaker James O'Keefe, 25, and partner Hannah Giles, 20, who posed as a prostitute, received advice from ACORN workers on how to launder their earnings and avoid detection from law enforcement officials while running a prostitution business.

"You have to find another name for it," an ACORN employee tells the pair seeking a mortgage in the Brooklyn office. "Honesty is not going to get you the house. You can't say what you do for a living."

Posted by: lucygirl1 | September 14, 2009 10:40 AM

I DO hate the president (notice lack of capitalization). Not because of his race - and just what is his race...he's half Caucasian for god’s sake – but because he’s a mother-freakin’ communist…what’s not to hate?

I volunteered, served in Viet Nam fighting communism (exposed to agent orange and now diseased because of it) and we have a Marxist in the Oval Office?!?!? Upon entering the United States Marine Corps I swore an oath to “…support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic…” Obama swore a similar oath. What? Did he have his fingers crossed.

Now that we have established that I am not a racist and that I AM AN AVOWED ANTI-COMMUNIST, lets deal with another epithet that liberal morons have been tossing about for several months now, namely: ‘ignorant’‘ignorant’‘ignorant’‘ignorant’‘ignorant’‘ignorant’‘ignorant’‘ignorant’‘ignorant’

I have a college degree, an I.Q. of 142 and have read and comprehended the English language on a college level since the fifth grade….I AM ANYTHING BUT IGNORANT.

I can count among the ignorant people of this nation the defenders and apologists of the pinko commie that now claims to be our president. Any fool that thinks communism (or any variant thereof…it’s all the same crap, all cut from the same bolt of cloth) actually works HAS TO BE IGNORANT!!!!!

Posted by: sosueme1 | September 14, 2009 9:08 AM

I've been to 2 THM and 2 Tparties in Tenn.
No racism towards Obama whatsoever. Too busy actually reading HR3200 and discussing it. The liberty movement is growing, attracting people from all parties, races, origins. It's a beautiful thing. Attended a packed THM, people had sections of the bill, discussing it. This is the age of education. Some supporters of 3200 at meeting had good concerns, that most of us shared, but no knowledge of the bill. The bill is horrendous and Obama is lying. Strange contrast. Opponents sharing concerns, reading sections, emailing each other, and supporters obsessed with race.
Download and read the bill. You'll be at the next tea party. This thing is the Patriot Act II.

Posted by: ajab1 | September 14, 2009 12:45 AM

Actually, the charge of racism might be considered charitable, since the only real alternative is that these people are utter morons.

Posted by: nodebris | September 13, 2009 11:49 PM

As per usual, you pepper the entire first part of your article with the left's bogus charges of racism; then at the end, you list the real issues posed by the tea partiers. Shame on you for misleading your readers yet again.

Posted by: jskeldon | September 13, 2009 9:06 PM

Just keep racing for the race card in this game. You'll just keep finding your hand empty because it's not in the deck and if you do manage to slip out of your sleeve, it's not going to play.

Posted by: websmith1 | September 13, 2009 8:06 PM

Maureen Down should hang up her shingle as a journalist.

All she does is call names...

We're bored with that.

Posted by: username | September 13, 2009 7:41 PM

Yeah 1.5M racists all in one place, amazing eh?

These people, if they don't wake up and smell the revolution, they will be doing so at their own peril when they are voted out in 2010 and 2012.

On the other hand, by over-using the 'race' card where it doesn't apply, people will never want to vote for someone who they think will be exempt from criticism, simply because he is protected by his color.

Posted by: username | September 13, 2009 7:00 PM

The best sign at the March:

Somewhere in the Country of Kenya, a Village is missing it's IDIOT!

Posted by: mlimberg | September 13, 2009 6:52 PM



Can you Hear us NOW?!

Posted by: SAINT---The | September 13, 2009 5:56 PM

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