So I not only got to attend the Tea Party at the State Capitol yesterday, but it was my immense privilege to be the lead-off speaker; mine was the first in a long stream of excellent speeches, including that of my NARN cohost Ed Morrissey, whose speech I videotaped and is currently up at Hot Air, and Twila Brase, and Katie Kieffer, who will no doubt post video, also gave an excellent speech. There were more. Many more.
I estimated about 1,500 people at the event at its peak around 6:30 or so. It was good-sized, jovial crowd – but not quite as big as last year. Some people were worried about this. I’m not; last year, people were upset, and wondering what the hell to do, and the Tea Party was like a psychological life ring to a whole lot of people whose political activism had never gone beyond going to the polls, maybe, every couple of years. Over the past year, though, conservatives have changed; we turn out for rallies; we call Congresspeople in vast numbers; better yet, of the 11,000 who attended last week’s Bachmann/Palin rally, over 1,000 volunteered to be election judges. We saw similar results last night. Conservatives are doing what they need to do to turn the spirit of the Tea Parties into the action this nation needs.
One group that was not in evidence were the “crashers”; this wasn’t the case everywhere, and the Saint Paul Tea Party was ready with a sizeable group of volunteers armed with orange vests and cameras to handle security – but other than half a dozen “Tax Me More!” activists who stood across the street for about half an hour, and a “Thanks To Taxes” billboard-truck that desultorily circled the capitol grounds (the billboard seemed to imply that we have children, sunshine and sex because of taxes), there was really no “opposition” at all.
And while last year I saw a few signs that made me cringe, I didn’t even see much of the far-out fringe in the crowd this year, either. I mean, if you’re one of those lefties who gets the victorian vapours over references to John Galt, then yeah, I suppose the crowd was big and scary. But the far-out, Alex Jones fringe was mostly absent from the rally itself. I saw not a single “Birther” sign, much less anything I”d call racist. Indeed, almost all the far-out fringe contingent…
…was up on stage. For some reason, one of Toni Backdahl’s co-MCs was a guy from AM1710, a little 15 watt AM station in Maple Grove that could be charitably said to be out there on the Alex Jones fringe of the movement. And one of the opening “musical” acts was a kid in an “InfoWars.com” t-shirt (these are the folks that make the radical Randers shake their heads and go “good lord, how wierd”) who did a pseudo-rap rant that might have fit in at an anarchist rally and whose message would have made me cringe even had the kid not considered “intonation” part of a socialist conspiracy. There were also a few speakers that sputtered about the unconstitutionality of the income tax, which is pretty much the norm at these things.
Now, I don’t fault the Tea Party’s organizers for including a lot of people that I, personally, disagree with strenuously – because that’s the whole point of the Tea Party. It’s a group of people, some of whom would not normally agree about anyting, gathering together for a common cause; making government smaller, more responsible, and less frivolous with our rights and liberties.
And so I say “Yay” to all; the mainstream-of-the-mainstream Republican, the disaffected Democrat, the Ronulan, and everyone in between, and all of us who are united behind the idea that we are all created equal, and that people aren’t free until government is limited; let’s all kick ass in November.
Indeed, the only problem I heard about involved a reporter from “The Uptake”. He’s a local leftyblogger who usually blogs anonymously; he went by “Steve” on the Uptake’s video. Now, he interviewed me briefly last year; I never saw his final product, although I was told either his voiceover or his editing really mangled the context of my interview; I wouldn’t know – I don’t watch the Uptake much. I did another standup with him after I got offstage – I figure if he and the Uptake want to Maye what I said, it says more about him and them than it does about me. He referred to the people around him as “tea-baggers”; I gently corrected him, but I got a sneaking hunch it was a tell as to “the Uptake’s” overall tone of “coverage”.
But shortly after that, a few of the orange-clad security guys came up to me and said they’d been getting complaints about the Uptake’s crew. I asked them for specifics; they took me to a couple that that said the Uptake’s crew hadn’t identified themselves as a “news” crew that was going to publish an interview online, and that they seemed to be trying to get them to say something stupid, to make them – Tea Partiers in general, it seemed – look stupid. The woman said that the “reporter” seemed to be trying to pick a fight with her, trying to one-up her on her knowledge of issues; “I”m not an encyclopedia, I can’t answer all the questions he has right away”, she said, still visibly exasperated. Her husband, a Vietnam veteran, echoed his wife’s thoughts; “he was trying to pick a fight; he was harassing us”.
I walked away, wondering – is “the Uptake” still trying to be an actual news organization, or are they down to trying to do bogus Jon Stewart-style “attack” man-on-the-street interviews? It’s entertainment, I suppose, watching a self-professed “smarter-than-thou” taking pot shots at those he and his viewers consider inferiors for cheap yuks. But is it “news?”
Now, I haven’t contacted The Uptake about this, and I doubt that I will; when it comes to “reporting” on the Tea Parties, even the mainstream media seem to find waterboarding context acceptable. But I think it’s curious that an organization that is fighting for its standing on the Capitol Press Corps would seemingly take such gratuitous liberties with the whole idea of “journalistic ethics”, whatever they are, with this kind of behavior, if true.
Bill Salisbury at the Pioneer Press, and Jessica Mador of MPR both did good, balanced jobs of reporting on the event; or at least I got no complaints from security about either of them (except from the guard that Salisbury bowled over in his rush to interview Katie Kieffer).
I’ll be looking forward to next year. Goodness knows there’ll be work to do.
Unlike Ed, I didn’t write my speech out, so I can’t paste the whole thing in. I had a brief page of notes – to wit:
What a difference a year makes
Our place in history
- Freedom Itself
I think it went a little something like this (typing purely from memory here):
Welcome back, fellow watch list members!
Wow. What a difference a year makes! What a difference a year makes! How many of you were here last year? (hundreds of hands raised) Excellent!
If you were here last year, you remember – the people in the media, and in this building behind me [the Capitol] and in DC didn’t know what to think of you.
I think the best guide to what they thought came from Mahatma Gandhi, who said, when dealing with people who’d oppress you and try to keep you down, “first they ignore you; then they mock you; then they attack you. Then you win!”.
Now, goodness knows they tried to ignore us. Last year, the first newscasts about the Tea Parties said it was a few extremists, and it was a flash in the pan.
But that didn’t work! So they moved to mocking you. You remember what they said; they referred to you by an alternative lifestyle term that…well, you know. [laughs].
And that didn’t work! In fact, it backfired; we turned out at rallies. We turned out at Town Hall meetings. We shut down the Capitol switchboard!
And so they turned to attacking us. Not just the literal attacks – the occasional thugs and whatnot. I’m talking about the casual defamation they’re engaged in. Talking about how we’re extremists. How we’re “racists”. How we’re “violent”. I dunno. Anyone out there wanna go start a fight? Sound off!
That’s what I thought!
And the other side? They’re scared. And you can see the results of this fear in their actions. Not just the way Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid and President Obama jammed down the Healthcare Bill by the end of March, because they knew they’d never get another chance – because of all of you [that drew a nice round of applause], although that was a big sign.
No – you know how I know they’re scared of you, here?
Because two years ago, Larry Pogemiller – the DFL Senate Majority Leader – said “I think it’s just silly to think that people can spend their own money better than government”. [Boos}
But last week, Lori Sturdevant at the Strib – who, if there were truth in advertising laws for journalists, would be a fulltime DFL employee, by the way – felt the need to write an article headlined “Is Larry Pogemiller becoming more conservative?”
Well, no! He’s not! But they want the people of Minnesota to think he is. Because of you!
So why are they so scared? Well, I’ll show you why. When I call you out, raise your hand and give a shout out. In the last election, how many of you voted Republican?
[Lots of hands and shouting]
How many of you voted Democrat? Don’t be afraid -we’re all on the same side here!
[A few hands]
[A few more]
Ron Paul supporters?
[A sizeable crowd, cheering lustily]
How many of you would rather pound a spike through your head than vote for Ron Paul?
[About the same number…]
How many of you are sick of all the parties?
[Quite a few cheers]
Wow. Pretty diverse bunch. And that’s what’s got ’em scared. Because two years ago, you’d have never caught all of us in the same room together. And yet, two years later, here we all are. We’re a force to be reckoned with. That’s why they’re attacking you!
Now, I’m the opening speaker here today. My job is to get you guys fired up. What I wanna do is give you a sense of your place in history.
The great writer, F. Scott Fitzgerald – who lived just up the hill, on the other side of the Cathedral – once said “Americans hate second acts”. That may be true. But it’s for sure that Americans love a comeback story; we love plucky underdogs who come from behind in the ninth inning to pull off the upset.
And it’s a good thing – because whether we like Second Acts or not, we are a nation that wouldn’t exist without comebacks.
In the winter of 1776, George Washington and the Continental Army had been chased out of New York by the British. They got chased across the Hudson, and then across New Jersey. By winter, Washingon had lost 3/4 of his army killed, captured or deserted. And he was wondering if the guys who’d signed the Declaration of Independence by pledging their fortunes, their honor, their freedom and their lives might not have to pay up on that.
Some thought that America itself might be lost.
On December 7, 1941, we’d come through a horrible decade; a horrible great depression. To make matters worse, it seemed that dictatorships were doing better than we were; Hitler and Stalin won Time Magazine’s “Man of the Year” award, which is almost as big a deal as the Nobel Peace Prize. And then the Nazis and the Japanese took over all of Europe and Asia – and to top that off, on December 7, our Pacific Fleet got sunk ina surprise attack.
Some said that the idea of Liberty was lost.
In 1960, the gains we’d picked up in the bloodiest war in American history – the idea that all men are created equal – were almost lost. One out of eight Americans were treated as second class citizens; their rights to vote, to prosper, and to participate in American society, were being eroded.
Some said the American Ideal, that we are all created equal, was lost.
And in 1980, we came through another awful decade. The President resigned in disgrace. We lost the Vietnam war. The economy tanked. America was trapped in malaise. And to top that off, in 1979, a bunch of Iranian “students”, including one who’d grow up to be their president, took 53 American diplomats hostage, and held them for a year and a half – as if there were an Iranian fraternity pledge; “humiliate a superpower, and you’ll get in!” And the world watched and laughed as the world’s greatest country could do nothing about any of it.
Some said the American Dream was lost.
And last month, on March 20, a government elected by 52% of your neighbors – including some of you, here – enacted the biggest change in the way our nation sees itself, ever. It’s not just about healthcare; it’s not just about he economy. It’s about whether this country is “a free association of equals, who elect agovernmetn that governs by consent of The People”, or “a Social Service bureaucracy with 300 million clients”. Last March 20, Congress said “Clients!”
Many of us worried that the Soul of America – that we are a free association of equals – was lost.
But America loves comebacks.
On Christmas Eve, 1776, Washington loaded his army into coal barges, and paddled across the Delaware, and wiped out a Hessian force at Trenton, and marched to Princeton and defeated another British army, and drove them back to New York.
He showed the world that America lived!
And on December 8, 1941, the American People rose up, and buitl the tanks and guns and ships and planes we needed, and fought evil in the North Atlantic and South Pacific and Omaha Beach and Bastogne; we pushed evil back into a box, and then we stomped the box flat! And then we won the peace!
We The People showed the world that Liberty lived!
And twenty years later, millions of Americans, of all races but especially black Americans, marched, and told the world “we are NOT second-class citizens! We are men and women created equal, and we will not accept less! They showed the world that The American Ideal lived!
And in 1980, the American People rose up, behind a bunch of hockey players and an old screen actor sho rode out of the west like the cavalry to the rescue, and said “we believe in Miracles! We believe that people are only free when governmetn is limited! We believe it is morning in America.
They showed the world that The American Dream lives!
And today, here we are. We are here to say The American Soul lives, and you can’t take that away!
So tell them! Because this is your Trenton. This is your Omaha Beach, your Selma. This is your Morning In America!
Of course, it takes work. It’s not all about going to rallies. You need to find candidates that’ll cut taxes, cut spending, and keep government in check. You need to work for them, volunteer for them, donate to them, help them any way you can! Because it’s by winning at the ballot box that we win this fight!
So go and win this fight!
Thank you, and God Bless America!
Yeah, I got a little excited.