In 2009, President Barack Obama reportedly called members of the Tea Party "teabaggers." It turns out that our fourth greatest president, first in so many things, may have been the first "teabagger" himself, as seen in the 1997 photograph above. Yes, that really is Barack Obama wearing a regimental coat and carrying a tricorn hat in his hand. And that flag behind him really is a Gadsden flag, with its serpent and its "Don't Tread On Me" slogan. You may want to let all of this sink in a bit, especially if you're a Tea Party-bashing progressive.
Neither Democrats nor the media have been particularly kind to the Tea Party. There is hardly space to go through all the times the Tea Party has been compared to terrorists (including by the Vice President) or fascists, or the many times it has been accused of racism by progressives in supposedly mainstream news outlets. That's a book-length story of its own.
But given the photo above, it is certainly a good time to think back upon some of the ridicule Tea Party members were forced to endure for evoking the Revolutionary War era by their dress and choice of symbols.
MSNBC's Rachel Maddow was one of many who saw mockery of the "teabaggers" as the first recourse. (The word was used so often by liberals in 2009 that Oxford made it a Word of the Year finalist.) Liberal sites like Talking Points Memo presented attendees who dressed up the way Obama did above as weirdos. The ever-predictable Bill Maher got hoots from his audience when he donned his own tricorn hat (complete with dangling tea bags) to bash the Tea Party on TV.
President Obama blamed the "teabaggers" for his failures, according to Jonathan Alter's book The Promise: President Obama, Year One, complaining that his own 2009 stimulus "helped to create the tea-baggers and empowered that whole wing of the Republican Party to where it now controls the agenda for the Republicans." (Vice President Joe Biden is blaming them still.)
Yet in the dramatic battles over trumped up charges of Tea Party racism and extremism, Obama never mentioned his own "Tea Party" episode--and neither has anyone in the media, even as Obama's allies and friends on the left ridiculed the Tea Party for seeking to make the same symbolic connections to the country's founding.
The media's failure is all the more glaring, given that the forgotten photograph has been in plain view for fifteen years. It appeared on the front page of Chicago's Hyde Park Herald on July 9th, 1997, and was taken by legendary photographer Nancy Campbell Hays. (The larger version of the image is below this article. The original, which was donated to the University of Chicago, is not yet available for public view; the image obtained by Breitbart News was very dark, and so it was lightened in Photoshop).
The Herald's caption below the photograph read:
Hey, look over here! Something catches the attention of Sen. Barack Obama (13th), Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie (25th), Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th) and Stephanie Franklin as they lead the annual "4th on 53rd" parade.
In 1997, Obama was beginning his first term as a state senator in Illinois. He and his fellow politicians were asked to lead the "4th on 53rd" parade, which is Hyde Park's 4th of July celebration--one not too different from many other places in America, it turns out. All the politicians who attended were expected to dress the part. The Heraldeven published a story the week before, on July 2nd, confirming in advance that Obama would be "wearing colonial attire."
With most politicians, wearing colonial dress for a public celebration like the 4th of July would be considered a bit colorful, but not extraordinary.
In Obama's case, it's more like proof of hypocrisy.
Since 2009, the ridicule of Tea Party signs and costumes has been so constant from Obama, the mainstream media, and the left that Glenn Beck encouraged people to stop dressing up so as not to give them an excuse.
It didn't work, though. The NAACP still saw the costumes as part of a disturbing, nationalist impulse:
The Revolutionary War-era costumes, the yellow “Don’t tread on me” Gadsden flags from the same era, the earnest recitals of the pledge of allegiance, the over-stated veneration of the Constitution, and the defense of “American exceptionalism” in a world turned towards transnational economies and global institutions: all are signs of the over-arching nationalism that helps define the Tea Party movement.
So, by the NAACP's logic, it would appear that Barack Obama is an over-arching nationalist, and perhaps a racist, antisemitic nativist as well.
That, or the left has been engaged in three years of juvenile character assassination to protect a guy who never got the memo about the worrisome deeper meaning of regimental coats and tricorner hats.