The St. Louis Tea Party leadership appears to be using this extreme rhetoric to demonize the other side, frame this as a debate of "good vs. evil," and then argue that because they're up against "evil" they need to resort to extreme tactics. Here's Jay Stewart:
(91:20) Somebody had sent me a message (I had criticized some of the really negative, jacked-up, over the top rhetoric coming from a lot of people) and the message was, "you shouldn't say anything about that because you're being divisive. Extreme times call for extreme measures." And I said to myself, "see that's the kind of garbage...they're looking for people like that. They're looking for people who feel so disempowered that they'll surrender their integrity and Christian values to some operative who's willing to tell them "it's OK to do whatever it takes whatEVER it takes because your liberty's at stake, so I'm going to smear somebody, or you wanna try and convince, maybe, one of the black people in your group, to do something that....to smear maybe a black politician in a video or something, that person should just go along with it because that's what you do in a war.
And when people don't go along with that, I'm finding that all of a sudden there's indignation and confusion and fear on the parts of these people who were once so...they have so much control over these people who are scared. So when somebody who's not scared, they find themselves in a state of confusion. And that may or may not be the case with me; I'm just giving you an example [laughs].
Worth noting that this is the second time Stewart has referred to them asking him to make a video smearing black politicians. Here's more from Stewart along the same lines:
We're kind of getting the shaft. People are like "you're either with us or you're against us." We get that a lot. I would hope that the tea party would ask "am I more focused on the person I'm opposing or the values and the principles that brought people together....When you go home, you still have to deal with the people who don't agree with you; who don't know anything about it. You're stewards of this great movement. And I think its more important for you to gather information and disseminate information then to just preach to the choir..."I'm only gonna trust that guy over there who agrees with me that so and so is great"It continues..
There was a memo sent to one of my friends from one of the people who had a disagreement with us over tactics...ends justify the means in terms of political engagement. And in the letter, the person wrote, "My purpose is to destroy the left." And I'm saying to myself, "that's not what I'm involved in! People aren't my enemy because they disagree with me politically." That's the type of zealotry that's extremely dangerous. "You can't trust them; we're in a war. War? No, our troops in Iraq are in a war.This, I think, is a pretty chilling picture of the type of rhetoric the St. Louis Tea Party leadership is using with their members. If this depiction is correct, they're looking for people who feel disempowered. They're telling them that the ends justify the means because "this is war." In fact, they criticize people who are not willing to use these tactics because of their principles. Again, I suggest that this type of reasoning is corrosive for any political movement, liberal, conservative, or anything else. As Jay Stewart says, this shouldn't have to be a "war." It should be a political discussion.