Jerome Hudson laughs when people ask if the Tea Party is racist. Hudson, a 24-year old broadcast journalism student at Tallahassee Community College, would know. He is an unofficial member of the Tea Party—and he is black.
“I never suggest that racism doesn’t exist, but there isn’t an apparatus of racism in the Tea Party movement,” said Hudson. “There is always going to be fringe elements in every political organization, but as much as everybody wants to talk about race, the Tea Party movement wants to talk about the issues.
“I just don’t prescribe to, at least not anymore, that everything has to be looked at through the prism of race or victimhood.”
In the last two years the Tea Party movement has gone from a leaderless mob of political radicals to a national phenomenon.
The movement, still lacking organized leadership, has spread to nearly every state; and although many Tea Party-backed candidates are unlikely to be elected, in a few states they have proven to be worthy opponents.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is vying for his seat against Tea Party candidate Sharon Angle, and some would consider Christine O’Donnell’s victory in the Republican senate primary over GOP favorite Mike Castle (R-Del.), more than surprising.
According to the latest Rasmussen report, Tea Party favorite Marco Rubio continues to hold an 11-point lead over independent candidate Gov. Charlie Crist in Florida’s race for the U.S. Senate.
As the race to the midterm elections tightens, it remains unclear what effect tea partiers will have.
Pace Allen Jr., a local attorney, founded the Tallahassee Tea Party and www.taxteaparty.com in 2007 in response to high property taxes in Florida.
Although he doesn’t claim to be a leader, with the help of a few local contacts he has seen membership grow to more than 1,000 local supporters.
“We have to stand up and push back against the federal government,” he says. “Our government didn’t make America great, it was freedom—freedom from government.”
Bill Cotterell, political editor for the Tallahassee Democrat, attributes tea partiers’ frustration to the big legislation the Obama administration has passed. “These people don’t like deficit spending—they didn’t like it when Reagan did it,” Cotterell said.
Lloyd Marcus, a black Tea Party member from Deltona, sings in the American Tea Party Anthem “…your stimulus is sure to bust, it’s just a socialistic scheme. The only thing it will do is kill the American dream…”
Although the song is sure to inspire a few giggles, the message seems consistent with the Tea Party movement.
Hudson said, “I’m proud to stand for self-empowerment, personal responsibility, strong family values, small government, low taxes, free markets, a strong military, and individual achievement.”
Tea Party candidates may align with the beliefs of local tea partiers, but Allen says he is more interested in voting for conservative leadership he believes can win and not spoiler candidates.