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.