NEWS

Philip Maddocks: Tea party stages half-hearted rally, vows to take back anger

Philip Maddocks

During a half-hearted rally staged in Phoenix last weekend before a largely indifferent gathering, a whimpering tea party movement vowed to take back its anger, which it says has been unconstitutionally usurped by an unelected series of diverse catastrophes that are subverting the democratic process of American outrage.

“We can’t just sit idly while this takeover of the American people’s anger goes on around us,” sniffled one tea party organizer. “What kind of country will we be turning over to our children and our children’s children if we allow events like the BP oil leak, the naval blockade of Gaza, and the new immigration law in Arizona to seize control of our wrath?”

The list of the tea party’s grievances is lengthy, encompassing unlawful and unelected natural, manmade and governmental calamities of all stripe, but mostly the party’s leaders blame a world that has gone awry and a federal bureaucracy that has shown itself unable to cope with it for undermining the movement’s argument that an all-too-powerful government needs to be subdued.

“This just makes us and our claim of a government takeover look foolish,” said an apathetic tea party supporter, brandishing a sign that read: “Don’t get even. Get mad.” “People have to wake up, forget about what’s going on around them, and take their anger to where it can really make a difference.”

“We have to get our fury back. Right now, even the president sounds angrier than we do,” he said.

The brief rally was to serve as the kickoff to “Get Mad” sob sessions the Tea Party Express is planning to hold across the country, if it feels like it.

Last weekend’s event included tea party nursery rhymes, a naptime, and coloring books depicting scenes of vitriol-filled, tea party-led protests from the past.

A subdued Sarah Palin kicked off the weekend rally.

“I guess we’re all a little bit put off right now, aren’t we?” the former governor of Alaska and Republican vice-presidential candidate said, a tone of resignation in her voice as she scanned the few, mostly blank faces in the audience. “Well, it’s time to get mad as heck. It’s time to ask for your anger back. You can do it politely, if you want.’

Her words barely audible over the shouts of a nearby throng of thousands protesting a new Arizona law that will make the failure to carry immigration documents a crime and give the police broad power to detain anyone suspected of being in the country illegally — Ms. Palin urged the unenthusiastic listeners before her to summon what remained of their disinterest and make their demands heard.

“We need to find our voice again, even if it means you telling me to sit down and shut up,” Ms. Palin told Tea Party supporters who remained mute and unmoved throughout her speech 

Without the Congressional debate over health care to galvanize their supporters, tea party leaders say they have had a hard time competing recently with other ire-inducing targets, such as BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward, airline surcharges, and the erupting Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland.

“And with [former Illinois Governor Rod] Blagojevich set to go on trial, things are only going to get tougher for us,” shrugged one tea party leader. “The longer we let these other movements hold on to our anger, the more difficult it will be to get it back.”

Speaker after speaker at the weekend event denounced Democrats for not continuing to direct their rage at the tea party. They urged party members to “let your congressman know that we are still angry and violent, and will throw bricks through windows.”

One speaker said he doubted the news accounts of the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico and the volcano in Iceland and challenged anyone to a $10,000 bet to produce proof that “there was any mention of these in the Constitution.”

“I’m willing to take a lie detector test,” he said. “Are they? This is America, how dare they ignore us?”

As the onlookers began to trickle away without conviction at last weekend’s rally, the organizers seemed at a loss on how to retake the anger high road from a peeved president of the United States and a livid Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs.

Tea party leaders fear that “exclusives” reporting that the Army is seeking “Internment/Resettlement” specialists, bloggers warning that Mr. Obama is trying to convert Interpol, the international police organization, into his personal police force, and discussions centered on the possible arrival of a “new world order” no longer have the effect they once had with the faithful.

The party organizers say it used to be much easier to stir foment for the cause. All it took was a careless allusion to tapped telephones or scoured e-mail, bank accounts and library records.

“Maybe,” said one leader, a tone of abject acquiescence in his voice, “we’re not as angry as we thought.”

Philip Maddocks can be reached at pmaddock@cnc.com.