In 1999, the SPLC warned that the growing threat of Web-based hate groups was growing even more, with a 60 percent increase from the year before.
In 2002, the SPLC warned of the growing threat of post-Sept. 11 hate groups, which it said had grown 12 percent between 2000 and 2001.
In 2004, the SPLC warned (again) of the growing threat of skinhead groups, whose numbers it said had doubled in the previous year.
In 2008, the SPLC warned of the growing threat of hate groups overall, whose number it said increased 48 percent since 2000.
And in 2010, just a few weeks ago, the SPLC warned of the growing threat of "patriot" groups, which it said increased by 244 percent in 2009.
In the world of the Southern Poverty Law Center, the threat is always growing. Ronald Reagan's policies led to a growing threat. The first Gulf War led to a growing threat. The election of Bill Clinton led to a growing threat. The Internet led to a growing threat. Sept. 11 led to a growing threat. The war in Iraq led to a growing threat. Is it any wonder that Obama's presidency has, in the SPLC's estimation, led to a growing threat?
Hate groups do exist across the political spectrum, and have for a long time. But they have nothing to do with the expressions of frustration over deficits, taxes and Obamacare that we have heard at so many Tea Party gatherings. That frustration, felt by Republicans, independents and even some Democrats, is an entirely mainstream reaction to the sharply activist course the president and congressional leadership have taken. While the level of frustration is indeed a threat, it is a political threat. Ask Democrats running in this November's elections.
It's important to distinguish between a political threat and a physical one. As Clinton might say, the hate accusers should watch their words.