While all eyes were focused on the Republican Party primary in South Carolina, and commentators were proclaiming the Tea Party movement finished because it had not yet picked a single presidential candidate to act as its standard-bearer, five hundred Tea Partiers gathered in Myrtle Beach on January 15 and 16, as if to prove its naysayers wrong. They came from 23 local Tea Party and "constitutionalist" organizations. The speakers' list was a who's who and what is what among the Tea Partiers and Republican politicians. And anti-immigrant fever ran high.
Of the national factions, Tea Party Patriots had the highest profile with both Jenny Beth Martin and Mark Meckler giving separate speeches from the dais. But FreedomWorks rep Max Pappas had his say also. Candidates Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum each spent their moment on the platform (Ron Paul made an appearance at the event but didn't speak, due to scheduling problems). So did Gov. Nikki Haley, once a Tea favorite, but who had recently slipped in the estimate of the attendees by slinging around too much government largesse. Sen. DeMint gave the opening remarks, followed by four congressmen: Jeff Duncan, Mick Mulvaney, Joe Wilson and Tim Scott. After Scott, came Apostle Claver, an African American who urged the all-white crowd to reach out to people of color or expect the Republican Party to never elect anyone. Claver also took time to call Congressmen John Conyers and James Clyburn racists, and describe the Democratic Party as the Ku Klux Klan.
Signs of the ascendency of Tea Party nativism appeared in the form of speakers Tom DeWeese, Colin Heaton, and Mike Cutler. DeWeese, who has described immigrants as a "Mexican Fifth Column," is a popular conspiracy-monger on both the Tea Party and John Birch Society circuits. Heaton proposed concentration camps for immigrant labor and prisoners, so they can build a double-doozy wall on the Mexican border, cheap (watch video below). Cutler, who was billed as a "counter terrorism expert," is one of the central figures in the Tea Party Immigration Coalition described in IREHR's latest special report. So he, too, spent some time condemning immigrants and the Americans who want to give them safe harbor or a path towards citizenship.
Tea Party Patriots Mark Meckler and Jenny Beth Martin never said a word in opposition to all that bashing on immigrants. They may tell news outlets that their movement is about taxes and fiscal policy, but the facts of the matter tell us something else.