At the Florida Democratic Party State Convention over the weekend, U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis insulted members of the Tea Party, referring to the activists as “teabaggers.” Teabagger is a pejorative term used to refer to a certain sexual act. Liberal talk show hosts such as Rachel Maddow brought the phrase into the mainstream in 2009, using it as a tongue-in-cheek insult.
As reported by Tallahassee Democrat and Sunshine State News, after voicing her support for large federal programs, Solis warned, “I’ll be darned if I’m going to set that aside now because a few teabaggers want to somehow muzzle my voice,” Solis said. “We don’t have to sit back and allow a minority in the Congress, known as the tea party, to dominate the discussion in our households.”
Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz echoed Solis’ sentiment, telling the crowd of Democratic partisans, “the unfortunate thing is that the problem, in fact, stems from a brutally fanatic right wing group of extremists, who put politics and ideology above principles and people.”
“These fanatics are destroying our state and our country and the contrast between their agenda and ours has never been more stark,” continued Wasserman Schultz.
The comments coming from the head of the Labor Department are striking because of the recent attacks from heads of unions on the Tea Party–this despite the fact that many union members are also members of the Tea Party.
While opening for President Obama at a Labor Day rally, Teamsters President James P. Hoffa declared war on the movement. The union head said that the Tea Party has “got a war, they got a war with us and . . . we’re going to win that war.” He added, “President Obama, this is your army. We are ready to march. Let’s take these son [sic] of bitches out and give [sic] America back to an America where we belong.”
Earlier this year, Secretary Solis made headlines after she admitted her bias toward unions at the Democratic National Committee’s winter meeting. After announcing the “fight is on” and pledging to aid unionized workers in Ohio, she told the DNC, “Admittedly, I am a little biased . . . because . . . I come from a union household.”
However, the Florida convention is not the first time prominent Democrats have gone after the Tea Party.
In August, Rep. Andre Carson (D., Ind.) told the Congressional Black Caucus, “Some of them in Congress right now of this Tea Party movement would love to see you and me . . . hanging on a tree.”
Vice President Joe Biden went so far as to compare the Tea Party to terrorists, and at a Labor Day speech he told a union audience that they are “the only folks keeping the barbarians from the gates.”
The Tea Party vs. unions and Democrats divide will become even more striking as the 2012 election heats up. However, insults such as the ones used by Secretary Solis have no place in civil political discourse.
** The Department of Labor was not immediately available for comment.