Matt Osborne answers my question on whether the Tea Party is racist or not:
Another way to look at the question: this cycle, it suddenly wasn't OK to be white and a Democrat in the South. The Reagan and Wallace Democrats marched right into the teapublican ranks; two in three members of the Alabama Democratic Party are now black. So from one perspective, the tea party is merely the latest manifestation of Lee Atwater's "southern strategy" and its main achievement has been a nearly-total shift to race-based identity politics. Birth certificates aren't just entertaining diversions in that context. I have attended tea parties where organizers exhort the crowd to watch out for racist signage...with racist signs just fifteen feet in front of the podium. The movement has taken extraordinary pains to pretend otherwise; dark-skinned wind up toys like Herman Cain and Marcus Lloyd are popular because they soothe the teabagging conscience. But their paranoid worldview is inextricably bound up in race, and only an enormous rationalization can prevent the observer from seeing that.