Tea Party Anger Compared to Anger at End of Slavery, Granting Women's Right to Vote

Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center was interviewed all over the liberal and hard-left media in the last week. On Tuesday, he appeared on Pacifica Radio's Democracy Now show to talk about the harsh tone of calling Obama a fascist -- even as they approvingly played audio of Rep. Louise Slaughter comparing her Republican colleagues to Mussolini for encouraging protesters:

I could not believe, last Sunday, probably one of the most beautiful days the Lord has made, was really destroyed for all of us by the actions that took place on the Capitol grounds....

And some of my colleagues went out on the balcony, looking a great deal like Mussolini, if you remember, those of us who are of a certain age, egging them on with megaphones, holding up signs saying “Kill.” Some of my African American colleagues—the great icon of civil rights, John Lewis, was harassed by people with very petty and small minds.

Potok was asked how this compared to the atmosphere before the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, and of course, he found similarities. He argued that the right-wing reaction here is like the protests against the end of American slavery, the granting of women's suffrage, and large-scale Catholic immigration:

ANJALI KAMAT: And Mark Potok, how would you say the rise in the right compares—the period that we’re living through right now compares to the period right before the Oklahoma bombings?

MARK POTOK: Well, I think there are a lot of similarities. I lived through that period and covered as a reporter the Oklahoma City bombing, and I remember very well the kind of general fury out there on the land directed at the federal government, in many ways this the sort of culmination of Republican demonizing, really, of the federal government.

I recall that immediately after the Oklahoma City bombing, a poll was run which asked Americans whether or not they agreed with the proposition that the federal government was in imminent threat to their safety and civil liberties. Thirty-nine percent of Americans said yes at that time. You know, at the time I thought that was extraordinary and quite frightening. Today, that poll was rerun just a couple of weeks ago, and it was found that the number is now 51 percent. So, you know, are we at the point where another Oklahoma City bombing is a possibility or at least a worry? Yeah, I think absolutely.

And I think there is a difference this time around, and that difference is really what I’ve tried to suggest already: it’s a much broader-based movement. It’s leaked out into the much larger political process. We see this kind of really incredible demonizing of certain groups of people going on in the Tea Parties, going on in big swaths of the Republican Party and in other formations, as well. So it’s a scary time.

You know, it’s probably worth saying that I don’t think this means the country is, you know, headed for rack and ruin and, you know, we’re one step away from fascism.

I think we are living through a backlash, much as was seen in this country after women got the right to vote, after the slaves were freed, when Catholic immigration began to change a formerly Protestant-dominated country. So, you know, presumably, we will get through this, as well, but it’s a tough time.

Potok also unfurled his usual line about how Tea Party radicalism is stoked in right-wing media, which delighted his taxpayer-funded radical interviewers. 

PS: Fill-in host Anjali Kamat has been a producer at Pacifica. From her Twitter page, we find she's very disappointed in how Barack Obama has continued "The Audacity of Empire" in U.S. foreign policy:

If there is one unmistakable difference between Bush's wars and Obama's wars it boils down to this: we now have a president who can almost perfectly pronounce the names of the cities and villages US troops will occupy and bomb.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis