Saturday, November 28, 2009

Went to a garden tea party ...

I dropped in on the St. Louis Tea Party event today at Kiener Plaza in St. Louis. Typical sub-par cell phone photo with special glare augmentation A crowd photo by Julie Stone:

My guesstimate -- and I'm not great at these things, so I could be way off -- is 1,000-1,500 people attending the event. Far fewer than the Tax Day Tea Party in April, but still a helluva turnout for a political event, especially on a holiday weekend.

I was joined by Libertarian congressional candidates (both announced for 1st District, so we'll be having a contested primary!) Robb Cunningham and Julie Stone. We passed out a stack of Missouri Libertarian Party newspapers. Here's a photo of Julie handing one of the papers to a guy:

The bad news:

In St. Louis, at least, the organizational end of the Tea Party movement (founded by Illinois Libertarian Party activists) has become a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Republican Party. Local Tea Party coordinator Bill Hennessy has stated his case for "taking over the GOP" instead of going third party, and his suggested tactics for getting the rogue Tea Partiers back into Republican lockstep.

Several of the speakers regurgitated the same talking point (quoted from memory): "It's not about Republican or Democrat, it's about conservative or liberal." Of course, by "conservative" they meant "Republicans and a few pet Democrats who can be counted on to vote for the most expensive and damaging big-government program, foreign military adventurism."

All of the introduced/touted candidates were Republicans, all of the targeted public officials were Democrats. The issues talking points were 100% conservative/Republican red meat (ObamaCare, Cap-and-Trade, the evil unions). Obviously those issues get some overlap with the sentiments of libertarians, constitutionalists and other pro-freedom folks, but absent was anything that didn't pass the Rush Limbaugh "dittohead" orgasm test.

Even though the St. Louis County Libertarians contributed $100 for the event (to help with the rental of "port-a-potties" -- and we took the liberty of posting a sponsorship flier on one), we received zero mention from the stage during the two hours that I was there. Nor did any other third party or independent candidate.

In format and agenda, it was 100% a Republican Party event.

The "leadership" and the "membership" are two different things, of course. We got a reasonably warm greeting for our literature, and several people made it a point to photograph, or come up to discuss (always positively), my sign: "Voting Republican for smaller government is like f--king for virginity."

I suspect that the Tea Party movement is done as a force for liberty. That's certainly the case to the extent that its "leaders" succeed in duping supporters of smaller government into voting Republican next year. My impression, though, is that most of the Tea Partiers fall into one of two groups: Those who were already Republicans and who just might have caught on a bit through their exposure to the LP, Campaign For Liberty, etc., and those who were already third party and don't plan to allow themselves to be co-opted.

So, a lot of sadly blown potential, but probably not too much damage done, and perhaps even a little bit of good accomplished. Requiescat in pace for something that might have been an amazing breakthrough if the damn Republicans hadn't tied it down, slit its throat and sucked the blood out of it.

More photos at Facebook, courtesy of Julie Stone.

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