08.28.10

The Left's Unlikely Tea Party Target

The man who this week became a symbol of Tea Party intolerance with his D.C. Tea Party map was once a major Democratic donor, contributing tens of thousands of dollars to the party.

"Do you know me well enough to hate me?" reads Bruce Majors' black T-shirt, a promotional item for the 1999 film Boys Don't Cry. The Hilary Swank movie depicted discrimination against the LGBT community, but the phrase has taken on new meaning for the  real-estate agent and blogger in recent days and he picked it out just for the occasion.

It's been a surreal week for Majors, who has been accused of racism, homophobia, nativism, and just plain ignorance thanks to a short guide to Washington, D.C. he wrote for Tea Partiers attending Glenn Beck’s rally from out of town.

Majors' instructions, posted by the Maine Tea Party Patriots, recommended that visitors stay away from the Green and Yellow Metro lines, which travel through a number of gentrifying neighborhoods popular with local hipsters, and to largely stick around Northwest D.C. and Capitol Hill. It warned attendees not to offend African and Arab immigrants by guessing their country of origin.

“I was going to a lot of lesbian cocktail parties raising money for Gore and then Kerry/Edwards,” he said. “I’m sure they’re all horrified this week.”

A number of bloggers pounced on the post as a symbol of Tea Party intolerance, noting that most of the neighborhoods to avoid were African American. Rachel Maddow devoted a segment of her show to the post in which guest Eugene Robinson, a columnist for The Washington Post, accused Majors of "scaring white people." D.C. Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton called the post "worrisome," and said she feared it would inflame racial tensions.

Majors, who says he aspires to be "the gay, slightly more libertarian Ann Coulter," clearly relishes the attention. Upbeat and talkative, he sports a mischievous grin that refuses to fade.

"It's a full-time job being a celebrity racist," he says as he walks through the crowd at the National Mall. "I need a personal assistant."

Already notorious on a number of progressive sites for posting inflammatory comments, Majors responded to attacks this week with a steady stream of profanity-laced insults aimed at Maddow, Robinson, The Atlantic, the American Prospect, and other progressive news outlets and writers.

He defended the guide from charges of racism, saying it was "overly cautious" by design and only intended for "people from Shreveport, Louisiana, who are in town for 36 hours." He said its parameters included a number of black neighborhoods, such as the affluent Crestwood. Majors, a D.C. resident since 1980, said he didn't mean to suggest all the off-limits areas in his guide were inherently unsafe—he frequents the nightlife scene on U street, off the Green and Yellow line, for example. Ironically, the only times he's been mugged or seriously threatened in D.C.  were in the wealthier neighborhoods, which are approved for Tea Party consumption.

Majors says he was most upset that the guide was initially attributed to Maine Tea Partiers by some blogs, implying that the author was a stereotypical rural bigot. A lifelong libertarian, his own partisan politics are far more complicated than the average Tea Partier.

According to OpenSecrets.org, he's donated about $15,000 to Democrats since 2000, including a $10,000 donation to the DNC in 2000, a $500 donation to Howard Dean in 2003, and a $1,000 donation to John Kerry in 2004. His only recent contribution to a Republican candidate was $250 in 2002 to retired Rep. Jim Kolbe, then the lone openly gay Republican in Congress.

"I kind of wish I hadn't given tens of thousands of dollars to Democrats, especially with the real-estate business what it is today," he said. "Now I can only give a few hundred a year to libertarians to try to make up the balance."

Majors says he also donated tens of thousands of dollars to the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT advocacy group, and once won a role as an extra in the sitcom Will & Grace at one of their charity auctions.

"I was going to a lot of lesbian cocktail parties raising money for Gore and then Kerry/Edwards," he said. "I'm sure they're all horrified this week."

He says he admires and largely agrees with Beck and Sarah Palin, who spoke at the rally, but that they were "too religious" for his tastes. In attending, he hoped to "vote with his body" against President Obama's economic policies.

While he's been a hardcore libertarian ever since he read Ayn Rand in 9th grade, Majors said he only moved toward conservative politics in the last few years as the economy overtook social issues in the national conversation.

"If traditional marriage were a big part of it, I wouldn't be part of it," he said of Saturday's rally.

While he's faced some homophobia from Tea Partiers online, where he frequently participates in message board discussions, he says he's found activists are often willing to hear his views and question their assumptions about gay rights. And if they aren't, that's OK. He sure loves an argument.

Benjamin Sarlin is Washington correspondent for The Daily Beast. He previously covered New York City politics for The New York Sun and has worked for talkingpointsmemo.com.