Charles Trimble: Keeping a close watch on the Tea Partiers
Last week I was having lunch with the head of one of the Nebraska cultural councils. At one point in a lively conversation she abruptly stopped what she had started with an “oops.” I asked her what was wrong and she responded, “I almost forgot that you are a Republican.” I told her she needn’t be concerned because I had changed my party affiliation to that of Independent. Then she continued, telling me that two men whom I greatly respect, very influential leaders in Nebraska, had told her that they had left the Republican Party; and I learned that they did so precisely for the reasons I left it earlier.

During the 2008 Presidential campaign I announced in a column that I was abandoning the Republican Party, in which I was registered for the past 25 years. I did so because the fearsome lunacy whipped up by the hateful speeches against candidate Obama concerned me. In that column I wrote the following:

“Over the past year, I have seen that the Republican Party taken over by a wave of fearful, hateful and strident bigots. I now consider myself an Independent for Barack Obama. But what I have seen in recent political rallies for McCain and especially those for Governor Sarah Palin, frightens me for Senator Obama’s life and for our country in very dangerous times. I hear the voices of fear – fear of a black man to serve as our national leader; and I see the faces of hate that such irrational fear generates. They are the voices and faces of hate that we read about and saw in photos in the 1960s, with white men and women screaming hate-filled, racist epithets at courageous black children being escorted by soldiers into their first day of a public school.”

Recently Charlie Crist, Governor of Florida, defected from the GOP to run as an Independent for the U.S. Senate. He had been a darling of the Party in the past, and a heavy favorite to win the Party’s nomination for the 2012 election. His name had even been bandied about in recent times for the Republican candidacy for President. But attacks by GOP conservatives over his warm reception to a state visit by President Obama eroded his popularity, and he was compelled to abandon the Party.

When I read of Crist’s defection so soon after I heard of the Nebraska leaders doing the same, I became hopeful that enough Republican leaders might jump ship to send the message to the Party leadership that they can’t continue to tolerate, let alone encourage, the growing legions of lunatics among them. On the other hand, it is the Republicans that will most likely cave in to their demands for fear of not regaining control of Congress, if not the White House.

These are the crazies that Arizona legislators and the Governor are working to appease with their recent immigration law, and this kind of appeasement will spread as the Tea Party spreads, because the Tea Party is the magnet that draws so many of these yahoos. These are the people who get their daily fix of vitriol from the likes of Glen Beck on Fox News and Rush Limbaugh.

Although it only started officially in February of last year, the Tea Party claims 15 million members that are American voters, one in every five voters. Their name is derived from the famous Boston Tea Party of 1773, and the image they push is that of revolutionary patriots. Their demonstrations have included immigration reform (send em all back to Mexico); anti-bailout through TARP and other relief packages; anti-health care reform; and just about anything that President Obama proposes.

At their riotous Tea Party gatherings many dress up in colonial tricorn hats and wave “Don’t Tread on Me” flags as well as Old Glory, and they call their members patriots. This all brings to mind the saying of British author Samuel Johnson that patriotism is always the last refuge of scoundrels. We should expect at any time to see some of these folks dressed up as Indians, which the colonials did in 1773 when they turned Boston Harbor into a tea pot – a cowardly act to disguise their own identities and put the blame on the real First Americans.

These are the same kinds of people that will bring their pent up resentments to the party, and we should expect that they would ultimately set Indian treaty rights and tribal sovereign immunities and jurisdiction in their sights for destruction. We need to keep our eyes on them.

Charles “Chuck” Trimble, Oglala Lakota, was principal founder of the American Indian Press Association in 1970, and served as Executive Director of the National Congress of American Indians from 1972-78. He may be reached at His website is

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