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Tea Parties Strike a Nerve   April 15th, 2009
Conservatives are energized and liberals seem quite bitter       


More observations...

I went to my first overtly political rally today. The Denver Tax Day Tea Party. The Denver Post estimated the crowd at 5000+.

Here's a picture of today's event, a view from the Colorado State Capitol building:

It was a fun way to spend a beautiful Colorado day.

I left work around 10:30am, picked up a friend, and we left the car at the park-and-ride to take the train downtown. As we were waiting for the train, we saw other people with flags. We took a wild guess and asked if they were heading to the tea party... they were. Then another person who had overheard the conversation verified that she had heard right, and she joined our group. We had a nice, fun chat on the half-hour ride downtown. Like me, it was the first time she had gone to any kind of political rally like this as well.

As the train stopped at station after station, more and more people got on. My friend--who uses the train to commute on a daily basis--mentioned that the number of people on the train was more in line with what you'd expect for rush hour... not 11am. The conversations of some of the groups of people made it clear that they were Tea Party-bound as well.

We got off downtown, took the 16th Street shuttle to as close as we could to the Capitol, and walked the remaining two or three blocks--with streams of other people doing the same. As we turned the corner and the Capitol came into view, the crowd was already well-formed by about 11:40am. We approached, mingled around the people, and got as close as we could... which wasn't very close.

We had a great time. There were many obviously home-made signs, lots of flags, and some better-looking signs by people that had obviously made a serious effort on their sign. We all had a great time observing the signs and laughing at the ingenuity and comedy that had gone into the messages and slogans, and a number of speakers took turns energizing the crowd. Politicians, up-and-coming politicians, local talk radio personalities, and even "just a mother" took turns at the microphone.

The "mother" gave a great talk about the history and meaning of the Gadsden flag and energized the crowd with just how applicable it was to all of us attending the Tea Parties today.

Just as enjoyable as being out among so many good people on a perfect Colorado day was the fact that regardless of exactly how many people were at the Tea Party, horns were almost constantly honking as they drove past the Capitol and the crowd. I was happy to see an estimated 5000 people assembled there, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and singing the National Anthem. But it was even more heart-warming to hear all those cars constantly honking in approval.

What there wasn't (at least at the Denver Tea Party) were lots of people with the same mass-produced t-shirts. I don't think I saw two people with the exact same sign. Everyone made and brought their own. In the case of the woman that joined our "group" at the train station, her "sign" was a blank piece of paper. She hadn't even decided what to write yet. Many of us (myself included) didn't have signs. We made our presence known with shouting and applause.

All in all, it was a great, wholesome grass-roots event that just attracted lots of people across the city. Many of us--again, myself included--had never participated in such a rally.

It Struck A Nerve

While it energized conservatives and capitalists across the country, it apparently struck a very raw nerve with some liberals.

Happy Patriots' Day. April 15 is the one day a year when our country asks something of us -- or at least the vast majority of us...

This country has showered me with the blessings of liberty. So what do I owe my country in return? Paying my fair share of taxes, it seems, is the least I can do...

So why are a bunch of Fox News clowns and right-wing cranks hosting "tea parties" all over the country?... That a bunch of overpaid media millionaires would lead a faux-populist revolt is comical. They somehow held their populist instincts in check as George W. Bush and the Republicans cut taxes on the idle rich and put the screws to the working stiffs.

Bush's tax policies were a godsend to the Paris Hilton class, but they sent the country on the road to bankruptcy and helped ruin the economy. But now that we the people have decided to set things right, now that we've hired Obama to fix the mess conservatives created, now they're protesting?

Now, granted, the above was written by Paul Begala, a washed out political hack. I suspect that he wouldn't recognize a grassroots protest if it hit him in the face. Perhaps he assumes that just because the Democrats can make a phone call and have tens of thousands of government-subsidized ACORN activists show up that that's how it works for conservatives, too.

It doesn't.

As has been highlighted for the last year, Democrats left conservatives in the dust when it came to organizing and using technology in the election last year. And now those same liberals suggest that this is an example of some massively well-organized, calculated effort by Republican operatives and, I guess, the rich? Does it not occur to them that if these evil Republicans/rich had the power to mobilize their constituents don't you think they would have done that on, say, Election Day?

I can't speak for other cities, but the Denver Tea Party was organized and promoted tirelessly by a guy named Brian Campbell, Sr. He's running for Congress in 2010 against almost impossible odds in Colorado Congressional District 7. He was constantly notifying people of the event via Facebook and was doing the rounds of the local talk shows. He doesn't seem connected. I hadn't heard of him before about two or three months ago. As far as I know he's not rich. From what I heard when he was on a radio show, and according to his Facebook page, he has a small floor covering business. Is he one of the evil, conspiratorial fat cats that Begala is alluding to?

I don't know what's more frightening: The possibility that Begala and other liberals honestly think these Tea Parties are the work of some "overpaid millionaires" rather than an honest groundswell of thinking and concerned Americans, or that they might know that it is a groundswell but are willing to try to misportray it in that patently false fashion.

The Truth Eludes Them

It seems to escape Begala that you don't have to be rich to know that raising taxes on the rich isn't necessarily a good idea.

It seems to escape Begala that even if someone isn't rich and might even get an increased handout from the government, that same person might be intelligent enough to realize it's not sustainable and not good policy.

It seems to escape Begala that this person might have the audacity to realize that taking $400/year from the wealthy to give to the poor and middle class from now until about Election Day 2010 is not enough to really help anyone and won't help the economy, but it may be enough to buy some votes. Perhaps that person is honest enough to find that to be downright offensive.

It seems to escape Begala that even though the administration says they're giving 95% of the taxpayers a tax cut, almost half of the population doesn't pay taxes... and even though some people will get cash money from one hand of government, the other hand of government will be charging them higher taxes through higher energy prices.

It seems to escape Begala that many of us don't need to be told by Republican operatives that our freedom--and those of the next generation--are under attack by crippling national debt.

It seems to escape Begala that the vast majority of Americans do not pay much of anything in federal taxes, and those that do are tired of being told we have to pay more and more so the government can misspend our money trillions of dollars at a time.

It seems to escape Begala that none of us at the Tea Parties were advocating tax evasion or suggesting there should be no tax, but that we're more concerned about the absolutely insane spending that's leaving us further in debt and will most likely necessitate draconian tax increases on everyone (not just the rich) in the future.

It seems to escape Begala that those of us at the Tea Parties were protesting what we see as a worrisome weakening of our country through bad government policies.

It seems to escape Begala that, Vice President Biden's silly campaign comments notwithstanding, paying taxes is not patriotism. We recognize it as a necessary evil to sustain our government, but it's our patriotic duty to make sure forced government confiscation of private wealth is minimized. For everyone. Yes, even the wealthy.

It seems to escape Begala that everyone got lower taxes thanks to the Bush tax cuts. The rich, the poor, and everyone in between.

And it seems to escape Begala that the Bush tax cuts, which benefited everyone, had absolutely nothing to do with the current financial crisis.

It seems to escape Begala that everything Bush did wrong, Obama is doing it worse. Bush had too much deficit spending, Obama has at least four times more. Bush cut taxes on everyone while Obama is giving cash money to his constituents while raising taxes on the people that create jobs.

It seems to escape Begala that Americans are paying attention enough to realize these things.

The one thing Begala is right about is that we conservatives were far too complacent with out-of-control spending under Bush. But to say that since a Republican president had a $450 billion deficit means that we have no right to protest a $1.7 trillion Democratic deficit is absurd. This is our future. While he might have a political point that we should've been more vocal before, that would not excuse our silence now.

As a speaker at the Denver Tea Party said today, we conservatives have to do penance for failing to uphold the fiscal principles of our party. Yes, we allowed our president to stray. And, in large part, that had a lot to do with our defeat last November. Sometimes it takes a stinging defeat to energize greatness.

One Other Thing Escapes Them

I seem to recall a few months into Bill Clinton's administration. There was great conservative dissatisfaction with what the new administration was doing. The frustration spilled over into something called Dan's Bake Sale where some 65,000 conservatives from around the country converged on Ft. Collins, Colorado for what ended up being a general expression of protest against what liberals in Washington were doing.

The next year, in 1994, the Republican Revolution took Washington by storm and Republicans took control of both the House and the Senate for the first time in decades. Those Republicans won Congress under the conservative principles that were enshrined in the "Contract With America." That crippled President Clinton's legislative agenda for the rest of his presidency.

In 1993 there was a single event with 65,000 conservatives showing up. The next year President Clinton's presidency became ineffective as Republicans took Congress.

Today, there were some 250 events around the country with combined estimates (so far) of over 200,000 attending.

What does that mean for the 2010 elections? No-one can predict the future. But Begala and other liberals are doing themselves a dangerous disservice (and Republicans a great service) if they believe this is some fringe movement organized by Republican "bosses."

They ignore "we the people" at their peril. And, hey, I'll drink (tea) to that!

    Update 4/19/2009: It looks like there is a widespread misunderstanding of what the Tea Parties represent, where the anger is directed, or possibly just an ongoing effort to misportray them.

    "The thing that bewilders me is this president just cut taxes for 95 percent of the American people. So I think the tea bags should be directed elsewhere because he certainly understands the burden that people face," David Axelrod said Sunday.

    Axelrod replied: "I think any time that you have severe economic conditions, there is always an element of disaffection that can mutate into something that's unhealthy."

    Amazing. 95% of the people didn't get tax cuts because 95% of the people don't pay taxes. And plenty of us do understand that, and Axelrod should not be bewildered that wealth redistribution isn't looked upon favorably by many Americans.

    And since when is political protesting and freedom of expression unhealthy? A few years ago it was supposedly one of the highest forms of patriotism. At least that's what the left told us.

    And if he thinks these Tea Parties were about the recession, Axelrod truly is clueless. If this is their top political strategist, things are looking pretty favorable for the Republicans in 2010. There are none so blind as those that will not see--and it seems like a lot of liberals are intentionally covering their eyes.

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