23 Nov

The Minutemen return from the undead as nativist Tea Party zombies


By: David Neiwert

David Neiwert is a freelance journalist based in Seattle.

His reportage for on domestic terrorism won the National Press Club Award for Distinguished Online Journalism in 2000.

The Tea Parties are proving to offer ample recruitment ground for a new generation of Minuteman-style nativists:

Nonetheless, the flirtation between nativists and Tea Partyers that began during the healthcare debate last summer, as coverage for illegal immigrants became a flashpoint, has intensified. The lines between the movements are blurring, as members overlap at the grassroots and leaders make official appearances at each other’s events. Roy Beck, executive director of NumbersUSA, spoke at the Tea Party’s first convention in February. “There’s a whole lot of cross-pollination between the Tea Party movement and the anti-immigrant movement,” says Marilyn Mayo, co-director of right-wing research for The Center on Extremism at the Anti-Defamation League, which monitors nativist groups. “We’re starting to see a lot of focus on immigration in the Tea Party. It’s the next step for them after healthcare.”

SB-1070, the Arizona law that requires police to ask for proof of legal residency from people they believe could be undocumented immigrants, has been a catalyst. Activism around the law this summer showcased the chemistry between nativists and various Tea Party groups. The Tea Party Patriots gathered thousands of signatures in favor of the law. The Tea Party Nation co-sponsored a rally in Phoenix on June 5, which proclaimed the backing of the broader patriot movement. The slogans on the T-shirts and buttons for sale there broadcast a wide array of messages and causes not related to immigration, including: “Dictators Prefer Armed Citizens” and “Karl Marx Was Not A Founding Father.” An overwhelming 88 percent of Tea Party “true believers” in Washington also back the law, according to a University of Washington poll.

… This affinity with the Tea Party, to the extent that it also leads to backing from a movement with growing political momentum and grassroots energy, promises to lend more clout to anti-immigrant leaders. Take the victory of a dark horse candidate for state assembly in California. The odds were so long for Tim Donnelly—a former Minuteman leader who runs his family’s plastics supply business in Twin Peaks—that he couldn’t even hire a campaign consultant. But various Tea Party groups went to work for him, and in July he managed to win the Republican primary in a district that votes Republican. He said he couldn’t have won without Tea Party volunteers walking precincts and knocking on doors. “It was the way we reached people,” he said. “We didn’t have the money to reach people in the conventional way.” Donnelly said he realized, in the crush of a crowd of thousands at a tax protest in 2009, that the Tea Party movement would far outstrip the Minutemen in reach. It has allowed him to situate anxiety about undocumented workers in the context of a broader anger against a federal government he compared to “King George who kept taxing us, taxing us, taxing us, but never wanted to hear from us.” Donnelly campaigned on reproducing Arizona’s immigration law in California. It is first on his agenda if elected.

And yes, Donnelly was indeed elected.

59th Assembly District candidate Tim Donnelly (Courtesy photo)

Two weeks before the election Donnelly promised “war in Sacramento.”

“I’m going to Sacramento to start the war,” he told supporters in Barstow. “I’m not going there to reach across the aisle and make friends. I’m going there to reach across the aisles to the enemies of freedom and annihilate them and pound them into the ground and take back our power.”

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