A Primer for the Coastal Elite: What Do The Tea Party Folks Want?


Famously, the tea party groups co-opt both the spirit and, in some cases, the sartorialism of the Boston Tea Party. A great deal of heavy words are thrown around (or worn) without a great deal of consideration. These words include “freedom,” “liberty,” “constitution,” “rights,” “patriotism” and “tyranny.” Listening to some of the speakers use these words with such hyperbole is a little like witnessing an adult Dungeons and Dragons game. “We must defeat this oppressive tyranny before it robs us of our God-given free liberty!”

There are also many statements of fact about exactly what and how the founding fathers thought. In the minds of many tea partiers, the founding fathers created the United States in their Hall of Justice headquarters to protect the world from the Legion of Doom. I mock, and it is easy. But activists have always selectively picked and chosen from meaningful historical events and peoples to fit their PR needs.

The Crowd

This tea party event was co-hosted and promoted by a gaggle of local politicians and radio show hosts. Still, it truly is grass roots, in the sense that FreedomWorks or some such group is not directly associated. One organizer is a guy who calls himself the “Chairman of the ‘Common Sense Club.'” Another is Rob Port, the radio show host behind “North Dakota’s Most Popular Political Blog,” the Say Anything Blog. Just to get a sense of the blog’s leanings, when the White House put out a request for vigilance regarding misinformation (“If you get an email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to flag@whitehouse.gov.”), Port called that “fishy” and wrote: “It’s almost like the White House wants Americans to snitch on one another. Are they building an enemies list or what?” This from the man who once defended Bush’s illegal extending of surveillance beyond wire-tapping. Port styles himself after Hannity or Limbaugh, though he makes it a point to disagree with them from time to time as an “independent” of neither party. And though he may be low rent and local, he is fat with charisma and wit.

Another speaker at the event was Ed Schafer, the former governor. A day before the tea party , Schafer told the Grand Forks Herald:

They just don’t get it in Washington, Republicans or Democrats. They don’t see the people, they don’t hear the people. I think that is a function of why people are rising up. They are saying, ‘You need to listen to me.’ And I think that is spooking people in Washington a little bit. They are used to being the high and mighty, all-knowing and all-seeing, and now people are saying. ‘I don’t think that’s necessarily the case.’

Until January, Schafer was the Bush-appointed Agriculture Secretary. A job located in D.C.