I've frequently expressed skepticism of the Tea Party—here for its frequent indulgence of lazy economic populism and here for the widespread historical illiteracy on display at the rallies I attended—and defended it against hyperventilating columnists like Frank Rich and Eugene Robinson, who reduce a complex movement borne out of complex motives to one animated primarily, if not solely, by race hatred.
It was an anecdotal observation, but at the Tea Party rallies I attended with my comrades from Reason.tv, we didn't spot any racist signs or talk to many people that could be obvious classified as racists. (Of all the people we spoke with at four or so separate protests, only one interviewee was borderline—and she opens this video.) Obviously this doesn't mean that there aren't Tea Partiers bothered by the president's race, but it suggests that the dominant media narrative—that race is an important component of the Tea Party movement—might need revising.
Today the Washington Post reports on a study of Tea Party signs conducted by UCLA graduate student Emily Elkins.
A new analysis of political signs displayed at a tea party rally in Washington last month reveals that the vast majority of activists expressed narrow concerns about the government's economic and spending policies and steered clear of the racially charged anti-Obama messages that have helped define some media coverage of such events…
Ekins's conclusion is not that the racially charged messages are unimportant but that media coverage of tea party rallies over the past year have focused so heavily on the more controversial signs that it has contributed to the perception that such content dominates the tea party movement more than it actually does.
I wrote about the Tea Party and race here.