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Why 'tea party' defenders won't let N-word claims rest

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Amid at least one poll showing that the public perceives the tea party movement to be at least partially racially biased, the forceful letter – added to a $100,000 bounty already out for hard evidence – is a new twist on an old tactic: calling a bluff on the race card. It also adds to an effort by conservatives, given President Obama's election, to move into a "post-shame" age in which the politics of race are dialed back to allow America to move forward.

"Ironically, the fact that a black man is president has made conservatives think that, 'Well, we elected a black guy president and that shows America is not a racist country and we should put this stuff behind us,' " says Michael Kazin, a history professor at Georgetown University. "Other politicians, including Hillary and Bill Clinton, have gotten burned by saying that black people will use the race card in their defense even if nothing is going on. But what does work is saying that liberals or Democrats are talking about race in order to hide their true intentions, which [resonates] among independent voters."

So far, it's not clear what happened that day. Deciding to walk outside in the nice spring weather rather than take an underground tunnel, a group of black congressmen walked down the steps of the Capitol and to the Cannon House Office Building.

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