April 18, 2009
Just a few days in advance of Tax Day, April 15, "tea parties" were organized in Staunton as well as in Fishersville. I was unable to attend, but I heard first hand about what happened at each event by some folks who did go to both of them. The Staunton tax protest at Gypsy Hill Park (outdoors) was spirited and well-focused, but the cold rain sapped the participants' enthusiasm to some extent. In contrast, the Fishersville tea party was such a joke that it made Bill Bennett's "Morning in America" radio show. Someone named "Pam" from Augusta County called to complain that the guy running the Fishersville tea party ignored the tax and spending issues, and instead started talking about 9/11 conspiracy theories, black helicopters, etc.
What surprised me was the apparent lack of involvement in the tea parties by the local "SWAC" Republican leaders. Since their big issue is taxes, I figured it was their perfect opportunity to mobilize and recruit more supporters.
According to the News Leader, about 200 people showed up for the Staunton tea party. The leader of the Staunton event, Scott Batten, and David Karaffa both emphasized the importance of the U.S. Constitution, which few people seem to appreciate or understand these days. It's very encouraging that people are spreading the word about saving our republic before we lose our personal freedom and our financial freedom for good.
Chris Graham at Augusta Free Press scolded the local papers for their lack of coverage, but his depiction of the tea party organizers as a bunch of "wingnuts" was badly misplaced. Granted, there are a fair number of "conservative" activists whose grip on reality is often shaky, but just because you oppose Big Government doesn't mean you're a nut.
On the national level, I was pleased with the positive tone of the tea parties. With these sorts of spontaneous expressions of "grassroots" sentiment, there is always a risk that some kooks (such as in Fishersville) or infiltrators will mess things up. Seeing Newt Gingrich and other Republican honchos with grins on their faces was a refreshing change of pace. The scant coverage of the events by most of the mainstream media is typical, about what you would expect. The CNN reporter who got in the face of a guy at a tea party was incredibly rude and unprofessional.
Steve Kijak went to this year's Shad Planking, in Wakefield, Virginia. Among the groups he talked to were the Virginia Energy Independence Alliance, the Virginia Citizens Defense League, the Campaign for Liberty, and of course the NRA. Maybe one of these years I'll have time on my hand and be in the mood for some "schmoozing"...